Military Emporium - My First Game Store

Military Emporium (which later became known as Model Emporium) in El Cajon, California was my first game store. It was located across the street from Parkway Plaza. I would ride my 10-speed Nishiki bike down there on the weekends and during summer vacation as often as I could.
Military Emporium, El Cajon, Traveller Sci Fi Miniatures vintage painted Polly-S
Traveller miniatures purchased at Military Emporium circa 1981(-ish)

Greg was the shop proprietor and he ruled his domain with a surly and disdainful fist. I remember being very afraid when I first went there to purchase my Ral Parthra Dungeons & Dragons figures and dice. My friend Bill told me not to touch anything... or I would be yelled at. I was to only state the code of the figure that I wanted and it would reluctantly be given to me in exchange for my money. Even under such a tense environment, I was immediately taken with the shop. 

The store was an alluring mix of games, dice, miniatures, models, wargames, role-playing games, paints, brushes, historical posters, books, flags, a few bits of fusty surplus, a mannequin with a WW2 uniform on it, and military band march music which filled the air. The fantasy RPG paraphernalia was viewed with scorn as a necessary evil to get the bills paid.

As I grew up Greg's and my relationship evolved, thank goodness. He still made fun of my fantasy games, and I made fun of his pink Seven Years War Prussians. When I was old enough I helped out around the store during a few of the busy Christmas seasons.

After college I drifted away from gaming. I would still stop by the store from time to time to say hello to Greg. We'd chat for a bit and I'd get the latest news from the shop (and the length of my friend Martin's mohawk). But one cheerless, cloudy day I went to visit the store... and it was gone. 

Little did I know that my passion for games and wargaming would reignite and I'd still be playing with miniatures decades later... and that I'd love historical wargaming so much. Oftentimes when I play I think back to my time spent at Military Emporium and of Greg making fun of us from his perch behind the counter. I'll bet that he'd be pleased to see the direction that my interests have taken.

So... here's to you, Greg, and your amazing, wonderful store: Military Emporium!

p.s. - Eternal gratitude and bragging rights are for anyone who can identify those figures up there. They are about 10mm big as I recall. Let me know in the comments section. Thanks!


Comments

  1. I fondly remember visiting Military Emporium back in high school during the 80s and "walking the gauntlet" under Greg's watchful glare. He had a great selection of British miniatures (Games Workshop) and Japanese anime model imports. Back then, my ideal evening would involve a visit to ME followed by pizza and arcade games at the nearby Chuck E. Cheese.

    As for the miniatures pictured above, I believe they are 15mm Martian Metals Traveller Space Marines dating from the late 70s. I still have a couple of these Space Marines along with a few other Martian Metals sets from one of my all time favorite SF RPGs.

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    1. Ted - That's right! I totally forgot that I used to purchase Robotech/Macross plastic model kits from him... in addition to Crusher Joe cars, etc. Upon reflection, I think that I gave a lot of my money to that store. Ha ha!

      Also... thank you so much for identifying those miniatures! I just Googled your suggestion and you are 100% correct. They are, in fact, Martian Metals Traveller 2903 15mm Imperial Marines Miniatures.

      Well done!

      - Jeff

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