Home on the Strange

I had no way of knowing when I first set foot in a tiny store on Mills Avenue in Orlando that I’d still be visiting that same store some thirty years later.  I was just there to see some models from The Empire Strikes Back they had on display.  Enterprise 1701 wasn’t even my go-to place to get comic books; if I wasn’t pulling them off the spinner rack at the local convenience store, I was getting them at a place called The Cartoon Museum that was a lot closer to where I lived.  But the models were cool, and I got a laugh out of the bike rack with a “Shuttlecraft Parking” sign attached to it.  Beyond that though, I didn’t pay the store that much thought.

Enterprise, as we all called it, eventually moved to a bigger space, on the corner of Mills and Colonial.  And as my geekness as growing, so too was my interest in the place.  They’d started carrying more than just comics.  Now you could find those mysterious tomes filled with single-space typed rules and the oddly shaped dice that used those rules:  roleplaying games.  I hadn’t jumped into that just yet, but the idea always intrigued me, and seeing those endearing, goofy first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons covers never failed to spark the imagination.  But I was still more of a looker than a shopper, a combination of a meager allowance and a still-developing sense of what I did and didn’t like.  Still, I definitely felt a connection with the atmosphere of the place.

That place moved yet again, this time on Corrine Drive near what was once the Orlando Naval Training Center.  And now,  Enterprise was well and truly Geek Central in Orlando.  Bored recruits from the base rubbed shoulders with students from the nearby schools, and it was in this location that I fully stepped over the line from geek-in-training to full geek mastery.  Hardly a weekend went by when one of my friends didn’t say, “Want to go to Enterprise?”  Even if we knew nothing new was out, it was just a cool place to be, filled with people who liked the same things we did.  If the parking was a bit of a nightmare, well, that was just encouragement to go in a big group, and we’d wander the aisles pointing out games we’d played or comics we’d read, or wanted to play or read.  I bought my first deck of Magic: The Gathering cards there, played my first non-traditional board game there (Formula De), and made a lot of friends among the staff.  Enterprise had gone from cool place to a home away from home.

But then the Training Center closed, and took with it the vibe of the entire area.  What used to be a bustling strip along east Colonial and down Corrine, the epicenter of my high school and college life, had been stripped of its biggest source of business.  Restaurants closed, movie theaters shut down, and Enterprise decided it was time to upgrade once again to a busier locale.  They moved east once again, to a much larger store just past Semoran Boulevard.  And with that move came a name change, from Enterprise 1701 to Sci-Fi City, something much more descriptive to someone not steeped in Trek lore.  The place was still a home though, especially for the few months when I stayed with a friend who lived practically across the street from the store.  I’d stop by nearly every day on my way home from work, and it was an off-hand comment from one of the staffers about my daily visits that lead to my online persona and the name of this blog:  Daily Rich.  If the bigger space robbed the store of the cozy intimacy it once had, it also allowed it to carry even more stuff, and have more space to play all the games we’d buy.  And though I eventually moved to Apopka and my visits became fewer because of the distance, I still tried to get out there as often as I could.  Over the last year though, my visits became more frequent as I tried to keep myself occupied in the wake of the various personal upheavals I’ve been through.  I found myself there three, sometimes four days a week, playing games with friends old and new.  A new location, a new name, but once again a home.

And now, they’ve moved once again, a tiny trip this time, relatively speaking, just a few hundred yards across the parking lot.  Not too hard to follow, but I’d find a way to keep going even if it had been.  It might sound like a silly thing to say about a comics and games store, but Enterprise 1701/Sci-Fi City has always been a constant for me, a place I could go no matter how down I was feeling and find something or someone to brighten things up.  Or no matter where it may have moved to.  It’s been a place to stay in touch with friends, even as our lives have evolved and the hours of free time we once had have become a luxury.  In a way, the store has been like family, always there when I’ve needed it, even if I didn’t call or write as much as I should have.  More than thirty years after first setting foot inside it, the geek in me still smiles when I walk through the door.


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