Smile Politely

Gamers, dreamers, spiritual seekers: Find your moment at 123 W Main

Facade of a red brick building. There's a row of tall, rectangular windows, and a bright yellow sign with blue letters that say Enchantment Alley.
Jenna Kurtzweil

Tourists and travelers; ramblers and regulars; students, shoppers, and seekers of all sorts. 

Pedestrians browsing Urbana’s picturesque Main Street are bound to pass beneath a certain banana-yellow sign, emblazoned with sixteen letters in a thorny Gothic font. Some enter Enchantment Alley; some do not. 

And that’s okay, proprietor Tina Stover assures: “No one ever comes in until they’re ready. And then, miraculously, that day they find what they need, whether it’s crystals or whether it’s spiritual help or whether it’s a little helpful advice.”

A glass case is filled with trays of various crystals. On top of the case there are displays of oils and pendants. Behind the case is a rack hanging on a wall with small tapestries and handbags hanging on it. Above the rack is a gold sign with Enchantment Alley in black lettering.
Jenna Kurtzweil

Upon entering the shop, visitors searching for a specific something, window shopping for nothing in particular, or suspended somewhere in between are subject to the same sonic massage. Atmospheric music harmonizes with a diffuser, which hums tranquilly beside offerings of essential oils and homemade mists brewed to banish negativity. Hanging garments and pendulums drag the eye from tables laden with tarot cards and shelves brimming with books on topics from hexes to herbs.

A grid of clear plastic cube shaped containers. Each has a different type of rock or crystal contained within it.
Jenna Kurtzweil

A kaleidoscopic array of crystals spreads like a quilt woven through with squares of peach moonstone, lemony citrine, and inky jet.  

Stover encourages customers to chase their impulses: “I always say: ‘When you’re in Enchantment Alley, touch everything, smell everything.’ Because you will experience a lot of things here that will help you find the answers that you seek.” 

Among those answers is spiritual healing. 

A woman with an sage green shirt, a bright green pendant, and dark hair is holding a book open to a page with black script and a gold emblem of a hawk.
Jenna Kurtzweil

“Enchantment Alley is a unique experience,” Stover said. “It is a safe space for those who are spiritually looking to find themselves, reinvent themselves, find solutions to their problems. Because as I say, we don’t have problems here. We have solutions.”

Nurturing a safe haven for spiritual solutions topped Stover’s priority list when she and business partner David Olmsted founded Enchantment Alley in its original Champaign location on Neil Street. “The shop itself was a creation that came from my business partner asking me one day: ‘If you could do anything, what [would] you do?’” Stover said.

Part gaming grotto, part fandom base, and part spiritual oasis, the store blinked to life on the most enchanted day of the year: Halloween, 2017. Stover and Olmsted town-hopped to Urbana two years later, and the banana-yellow sign has watched over 123 W. Main St. ever since.

A rectangular dry erase board is hanging in a window. It says "Coming Soon, ANIME. Follow Enchantment Alley on Facebook 2023"
Jenna Kurtzweil

Originally, Enchantment Alley featured a healthy sampling of fandoms, from Star Trek to Star Wars and Doctor Who to Harry Potter. The co-owners decided to scale back in the Urbana move, devoting an entire room solely to merchandise from the Wizarding World. In response to customer demand, that room will be replaced by its successor — an anime-themed offering — late this spring.

But a new focal fandom is one of several transformations afoot in Enchantment Alley: the spiritual sanctuary welcomed a new roommate last summer.

A white man with red hair and a red goatee, blue collared shirt and orange bow tie, is gesturing towards a wall covered in colorful game posters.
Jenna Kurtzweil

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the co-owners observed a steady increase in first-time spiritual seekers. For Stover, who treasures the opportunity to “help people find their power,” the influx of new customers catalyzed a bittersweet balancing act between the store’s spiritual and gaming sectors. In June 2022, she and Olmsted sold the gaming portion of Enchantment Alley into the capable hands of Greyson Inman, owner and operator of Bow Tie Games. The business and building mates are now bosom companions united in storefront, space, and sentiment.

“Both sides complement each other because we provide a safe space for you to be yourself…We’re the only place in town that you can literally come in and buy Pokémon cards and incense at the same time,” Stover said.

Pokémon cards are just one of many treasures for the taking at Bow Tie Games. Patrons interested in Yu-Gi-Oh!, Digimon, Magic The Gathering, and more will have plenty of paraphernalia to choose from and peruse. For Inman — veteran game salesman, multi-year Urbana resident, and lifelong student of cards and dice — the store’s most valuable offering cannot be found on a shelf.

“I grew up in a small community, and I finally started going to game stores when I was about fifteen years old…Everyone I really consider family came out of these communities, and I just want to provide that to maybe one or two more people…So it’s mostly the sense of community that I like to provide,” Inman said.

A small room has a row of white tables. Each table is filled with four people gathered around board games.
Greyson Inman

All are welcome to join Bow Tie Games’ rotating roster of game nights and special events, where all materials, instruction, and play are offered free of charge. On a typical Thursday night, community members gather in the game room to face off for a lively session of Dungeons & Dragons. “A lot of people don’t know that you can show up by yourself…and get to play the game with [people who start] off as strangers,” Inman said. Players of all ages, abilities, and experience levels shake hands on an even field, with seasoned experts regularly training novices. 

“You can walk into the store and learn about D&D for the first time and you’ll be just as prepared to jump into a session as someone who’s played it for ten years,” Inman said, adding that he typically extends a 10% discount to newcomers “just for coming in.”

Not just patrons of all gaming abilities, but guests of all identities are welcome in Bow Tie Games. “Urbana has so many safe spaces, and that doesn’t mean that there can’t just be another one,” Inman said. The same applies to Enchantment Alley, where Stover guarantees that “everyone is welcome and everyone is safe.” Safety comes in myriad forms. An inclusive community of strangers-turned-competitors-turned-friends; a pink-and-blue flag waving proudly from a gaming supply rack; a gurgling diffuser; a kind ear. 

Not sure where to start? Take Stover’s advice: “Your journey always begins with one step. Make that step be here.”

Enchantment Alley and Bow Tie Games
123 E. Main
M-Tu 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (game room closed)
W 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Th-Sa 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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