Culture Watch: Battle Station

Photo by Allie Goolrick.

Photo by Allie Goolrick.

Kringle’s Place in Fletcher isn’t the easiest spot to find. The small comic book shop is tucked away in one of those strip malls and office developments that seem to spread endlessly southward along Hendersonville Road as you head out of Asheville.Kringle’s Place also isn’t a large store by any stretch of the imagination. But it is imagination that swirls around the small store and draws dozens of people of all ages every weekend to conjure up the fighting skills and magic of a wide assortment of monsters, heroes and wizards.

Every weekend, starting on Friday evenings, Kringle’s is a tournament site for some of the most popular comic book and trading card games in the world. While you might think these games would appeal mostly to teenaged boys, the wide range of ages of the tournament duelers is surprising. Several young women are typically sprinkled in amongst the contestants.

“We have the third largest registry of tournament players in the state,” says Kringle’s owner Al Bissonnette with an obvious tinge of pride in his voice.

Bissonnette opened Kringle’s three years ago, and the number of people who come to play in the weekly tournaments of Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic and the World of Warcraft has continued to grow. According to Bissonnette, nearly 500 players from Western North Carolina are now registered at Kringle’s. As the weather improves this spring, the number of player participating in the weekly tournaments also climbs. Bissonnette says the record number of players at one time at Kringle’s is 49, but he says more are always welcome to join in the fun.

While the trading-card tournaments or “duels” do draw crowds on the weekends, the shop also features an interesting array of comic books, graphic novels, t-shirts, toys and collectible comic book posters and art.

“Hey if you’re a real fan of comic books and the art of comic books and graphic novels, then we definitely have something that’s going to interest you,” Bissonnette says with a slight chuckle.

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