Gamers rejoice! After a 13-year hiatus, Area 51 has returned to Cortland! Offering a cornucopia of fun, from old-school box games to RPGs, collectibles, and everything in between- Area 51 & The Crowe's Nest is a sci-fi fan's paradise. We asked owner Fran Crowe if he could spare a couple of minutes from his new shop to answer a few questions.
What inspired you to open Area 51 & The Crowe's Nest?
Since I was a young boy, I've been an avid gamer. Dating back to Atari and NES, not to mention all the board and card games I played back then. That evolved into reading novels and comic books- from Tolkien to Gaiman. I was hooked! I also played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons and later Magic the Gathering when it first came out. All of this culminated in my desire to create a store in 1995, The Crowe's Nest. That store combined my interests and later merged with Area 51 to bring those interests to a larger audience. Both stores included a large, dedicated play space that offered tournaments and in-store gaming for over 15 years until we closed in 2009 and went exclusively online.
Where did the name come from?
The Crowe's Nest name is a play on the lookout structure built in the upper part of the main mast of ships and my family name. It is also meant to represent that the store can be a home and sanctuary or safe haven. Area 51 is named after the classified military testing facility in Nevada that is often associated with aliens.
Why choose the Corset Building for your shopfront?
Since 2009 I have been operating The Crowe's Nest primarily as an online store out of my home. I have expanded the occupying space multiple times until deciding I needed a warehouse and office. As I started looking for a space in Cortland, I had to consider my overhead. I needed a good amount of space, but at a fair price. The first place I looked at was the Cortland Corset Building. After seeing this 42,000 sq ft, 150-year-old building, I was hooked on the character, history, and potential of the building and the space. I could see, like the owner Peter Meuhlbauer, a great vision for the building, and I wanted to be a part of that. We've been working on the space for the last five months and are incredibly happy with how the store turned out. A vision and dream made reality.
If your shop was a song, what would it be and why?
This is a really easy (and a great) question. I have a passion for music. The feeling I get when I hear certain songs stirs a feeling of nostalgia that I want others to experience when in the store in a variety of ways. When they look around, I want them to experience wonder in the same way those with golden tickets did in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. The answer to this question and song of course, is "Pure Imagination," sung by Gene Wilder. On rare occasions, you may even hear me singing that or a close runner-up, The Neverending Story theme song.
I know you just opened, but are any exciting projects (or future projects) in the works?
I'm a dreamer and an idea man. Something different that I am bringing to the store this time around is a culmination of all the skills I've acquired over the years and ones I am still learning.
We have a large workshop that will be capable of producing numerous items. Like many of the other vendors in the building, I am a creator, an artist, a tech nerd, and a massive geek. Combining these interests and skills, the store will bring to Cortland several new items, initially starting with custom sublimated and vinyl t-shirts, tumblers, mugs, coasters, and bags, among a huge list of other products. we will then venture into taking 3D printing skills to the next level. We will do both resin and filament printing, mostly for miniatures, statuary, toys, and novelties, along with other custom 3D printing that we will make available to the public. Finally, we will be working on our 80w and 50w CO2 lasers to engrave and cut a wide variety of projects. We will be engraving, etching, and cutting glass, acrylic, wood, and more. We will start to produce signs, engraved tumblers/glasses, jewelry, and much more. Bringing it all together with woodworking, soldering, electronics/computers, and arts/crafts will allow us to produce and create a very wide array of projects, all here in Cortland at the Corset Building.
Give us a few months to settle in, and we'll be ready for individual custom jobs as well as large orders at a reasonable price.
What item do you have in your shop that is a favorite in your home?
EVERYTHING! Actually, it's funny because my personal space at home is filled with very similar items you'd see here at the store. I actually brought many of those items in for decor of the store and workshop. We also have a lounge area with a sofa and a big screen TV. I'd have to say my favorite item would be a four-book set containing J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I will always go back to those books, as they were the beginning of my own lifelong adventure.
What is your favorite locally made item (perhaps one you sell)?
I would have to say my favorite item in the store would be a Deadpool Bust that I 3D printed. It took multiple days to make and came out nearly flawless. As soon as I get the printers calibrated and ready for production, we already have an order for one! It also feels great to see our in-house produced Area 51 t-shirts and hoodies being purchased and worn!
Locally, you can't beat Hollenbeck's Cortland-made cider and donuts! My hope is that The Crowe's Nest & Area 51 will become a similar Cortland destination!
What is Cortland County’s best-kept secret?
The Cortland Corset Building! The owner has taken this building and is creating something special. My stores used to be in the Clocktower Building before the fire, and I think this building is just as iconic. There is so much to see and do here. When you have the time, come check it out!
Describe Cortland County in three words.
Eclectic, charming, and vibrant
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