I went into my 'friendly' local gaming store recently. It's off the beaten track and is a pain in the arse to get to, more than an hour's worth of travel by bus and train, but it has lots of RPG stuff in there. It serves an entire major city area and the surrounding towns. You'd think, with the popularity of RPGs being nowhere near what it used to be which probably results in sales being low, that they'd be a bit more welcoming.
The shop felt dirty, the lighting was harsh and sterile, RPGs were stacked on a table in dirty torn boxes in the middle of the room and everything seemed haphazardly dumped randomly around. There was a gaming table in there manned by friends and acquaintances talking about random stuff and there was not one single 'Hi! Welcome! Do you need any help with anything? Well, if you do just ask!' In fact, what I did get was a baleful stare from the guy behind the counter and brief glance of suspicion from everyone else. I felt so unwelcome it made me feel uncomfortable, like I'd walked in on a private club meeting and I was intruding. And the smell... oh, God, the smell. Salt and vinegar mixed with sweat and nicoteen, in a shop with virtually no ventilation. In fact, I was barely in there five minutes - I just had to get out. I won't be going back.
I was pretty annoyed. Why do some gaming shops present themselves in such a way? I once had an idea for a gaming store that I put into practice and almost got funding for. I was going to advertise in local papers, set up clubs for younger kids, have late opening for war, card and roleplay gaming - basically do what I could to get new blood into the hobby and spread the gaming word. Make the shop welcoming, actually want people to come in and hassle me with questions. This is what they should be doing - don't set up clubs and get-togethers for existing gamers (ie your mates), advertise for new players, get new people involved. Take the piss out of Games Workshop all you want, at least they have the right idea when it comes to attracting customers. Bright, airy, open to the public with great big display windows and places for people to game and paint, and staff who are friendly and knowledgable.
Don't hide your gaming shop away from view. Open the windows for displays, advertise in local papers, sponsor or create your own events. Get people involved - stop being so insular about it all.
Stop hiding yourself away and acting like you're embarressed about your hobby. You're not sex shops.