Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

R.I.P. THE LAST GRENADIER (of Burbank, California)

This is a bit of a hobby post, and a bit of a "life in general" post, mashed together.

I have been incredibly busy of late, with good things and not-so-good things, as is usually the case in life.

Over on my Camerone Day blog, I am chronicling the countdown to the 150th Anniversary of the French Foreign Legion's greatest victory/defeat, fought in the dusty ruins of an abandoned hacienda in Mexico, which I plan to commemorate in similar manner to "Maiwand Day," on April 30th, 2013, by refighting the battle with some nice figures on some very nice terrain.  Just yesterday I received the completed Hacienda compound, which serves as the centerpiece of this "Alamo"-like last stand.

Earlier today I headed over to visit the only wargame shop left in the San Fernando Valley, at least that I know of, THE LAST GRENADIER, on Hollywood Way in Burbank, just a little South of the airport.  I hoped to pick up an Osprey book or two, and maybe a copy of a Wargaming magazine.  Over the past 14 years or so, since first moving the Valley from Brooklyn, New York, I've spent a decent amount of time and money in the store.  It had been at least a month since I'd visited last, maybe a little more, due to how busy I've been with work and family matters.  When I pulled up and parked out front, I was met with a terrible shock, though perhaps not that much of a surprise...

That's all she wrote -- or maybe "all she rolled" in this case -- the place is no more.

I'm not an overly sentimental type, and I've never liked to listen to others pine away for the good old days, when men were men, and writers wrote with pens or pencils or Selectric typewriters, because I've always thought: why not pine away for the even better older days, when writers wrote with feather quill pens on parchment, or mallets and chisels in stone, or -- well, you probably get the idea.  But... I couldn't help but feel a tang of tragic sadness that this brick-&-mortar shop would never enable me to scratch my wargaming itch in person again.

It's true, the place had piles of dust atop its piles of dust, and could have done with a clean-up, but I still wish it hadn't done with a final clean-out.

Over the years I bought some good books, and ordered some terrain items, and watched a friend play in a 15mm Napoleonic campaign on one of the several green felt covered gaming tables in back.  I guess I wasn't a "regular", since I didn't show up every week, or even really every month, but using American television terminology, I was a "recurring" cast member, as opposed to just a one-time guest-star.

I wish I'd known they were about to close, so I could've stopped in to say goodbye to the guys who worked there, who'd helped me track down some hard-to-find items over the years, including an issue of a British wargaming magazine that featured a photo of my then 10 year-old son playing in an "Uncle" Duke Seifried game at the 2007 Historicon, and a Miniature Building Authority terrain piece which I picked up just in time for my original Maiwand Day game in July 2010.  I would have picked up a new Osprey or two, and maybe something else.  I think having missed that opportunity is what prompted me to put up this post, which has not much to do with the battle of Maiwand, or the Second Anglo-Afghan War.

Here in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, wargaming will continue without "The Last Grenadier."  No one who already plays with toy soldiers -- or board wargames or RPGs -- will stop doing so because they have closed their doors.  But there's still something a bit depressing about not having a place in the area where you can go and browse through hobby-related items.

I'm glad the joint was open -- at several different locations -- for as long as it was, and absurd as it may sound, I must say it:  long live The Last Grenadier.


  1. Wow, I too am sorry to see The Last Grenadier close shop. I use to visit the place back in the late 80s when I flew out to visit my brother Joe who was living in LA then.

    I remember the staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and their wargame magazine back issues were extensive and relatively cheap as compared to NYC prices.

    I also remember that they had an area in back set aside for miniature wargames – which I am sorry to say I was never able to join in as my visits were always too short to accommodate such an endeavor.

    In any case we still have the internet for our supplies and material needs, but alas the friendly person to person conversations that you would have in these old brick and mortar shops is fast becoming only a memory.

    Well, take care my friend, and love to you and your family

    Jimmy G

  2. Incredible, Jimmy G. -- when you were out here in LA visiting your brother Joey, DECADES AGO, you managed to visit The Last Grenadier?!?!?! What are the chances of that one?!?!?!

    It's the Brooklyn Connection! Say... that's a pretty good title!

    Hope you're doing well, Jim! Please give my love to John, your dad, and Joey too!

    -- and THANKS VERY MUCH for leaving your comment!

    PS Be sure to check out CAMERONE DAY before, during, and after this coming April 30!!!

  3. It is a sad day for our hobby when these type of establishments close down but I guess it is hard to compete with the internet.
    Best wishes,

  4. Right you are, Pat, oh so right you are.

    As I said in my post, I'm not prone to sentimental longing or complaint, but I must agree, it was a sad day indeed. Ah, well. There is actually another wargaming shop not that far from me -- though at the wrong time of day the traffic would make getting there next to impossible -- over the hill in Santa Monica, but it's much more of a fantasy/sci-fi sort of place than a historical one.

    At one time, a few years back, when a TV show my partner and I were running seemed to have the potential to be a big hit, I briefly considered opening up a physically large gaming shop, as much to provide me with an expansive gaming space as anything else, but after some thoughtful consideration, I realized it would have been certifiably insane. The only way I'd ever consider it again is if some movie I write or TV show I create becomes a #1 blockbuster and I actually get rich like people think Hollywood movie writers and TV writer-producers are supposed to be. If that should happen, despite all the potentially far more profitable, more deserving, and more sane options, I will definitely sink some money into re-establishing a wargaming "brick-&-mortar" (or in my locality, more likely "wood-&-stucco") shop on some street in the San Fernando Valley! Of course, when and if I do that, you will have an open invitation to stop by for a free drink &/or meal, accompanied by a historical miniature wargame of your choice -- preferably Second Afghan War, Maximillian Intervention, or 14th-15th Century Medieval, but I promise to let you decide!

  5. Sad day Ethan I am lucky we still have three within a couple of hundred yards of each other in Glasgow wich is suprising!
    I will pop over to the Camerone Day blog to see what you have been up to.
    I was thinking with all the new Perry retreat from Moscow figures you must be in your element,

    best wishes


  6. Per a thread on TLG's closure, the owners are selling off the remaining inventory on ebay as seller "iquisitor"

  7. I worked at the Last Grenadier during the Norm Flam era, roughly 1981-1987. The shop was initially next to Perrin's Deli on the Golden Mall. Then it moved further up next to Penny's. Both had gaming areas - but the second location had a big basement in addition to the game area on the main floor. At one point, Norm owned 4 stores, and I also worked at the Northridge one on Reseda Blvd for a while.

    Good memories wherever I worked. Colorful characters, i.e. regular customers and gamers. In the mid-80's, the Burbank store was the biggest one around. Norm became a wholesaler, and supplied other stores. Lots of inventory.

    I liked Northridge because I would visit Guiseppe (Joe) nextdoor at the Black Watch miniatures shop. Then walk up to Smith Brothers hobby shop, then over to the comic book shop across the street. Hard to keep $$$ in your pocket in those days!

    When the change of management happened, and Norm sold the business, I fell out of favor with the new regime. I rebounded over at Something Unusual in Eagle Rock, run by one of Norm's original regulars. That lasted a couple years, when I had to get a FT job with benefits, due to starting a family.

    Eventually, I worked out in the Valley, and I would stop in the Northridge Last Grenadier, and feed my habit, and chat with Chris. Great times!


  8. It was after I was let go, that the Grenadier empire slowly downsized throughout the 1990's. The Burbank store moved a couple times, and I never really went in, but heard stories that there was a decline in counterside manner, and also keeping the shop bright and clean. Norm was a good boss, and took pride in his stores, I will say that.

    I've since moved to WA state, and in 20+ years here, I've seen little gaming shops start up and then close up. For one thing, I believe the zenith of gaming (both RPGs and historical) was back in the 80's and 90's. Enthusiasts may have the capital to start a store, and the love of games, but the clientele has diminished to where you can't sustain an income, let alone the overhead. I want to see them succeed... but can't really be fully optimistic. Home PCs and the internet changed the playing field. Much like how Amazon hurt book stores.

    We do have one long-running game/comics/minis shop that's been open since before Y2K. Reminds me of the Grenadier in many ways. He did have another store in town - but closed it about 20 years ago. Regardless, when I go into this shop, I'm like the only customer the whole time I'm there. The owner is a great guy, and runs it well. I just think the times have changed, that's all.


  9. That FT job I took after the gaming shop career ended, was at the local newspaper. I put the business (display) ads in it. We had odd little spaces to fill in most every issue, and had a drawer full of public service "freebies", like Smokey the Bear. I asked Rocky, the new Grenadier owner, if he'd like to run little ads at super cheap prices. Like when there are airplane seats needing to be filled, and they are at a huge discount. He said sure thing. Eventually, I just stuck in a Grenadier logo & address on the house. So you can see I never had any hard feelings being let go.


    1. Hi MM Dave C here, I had wondered what happened with you so many years ago. The years of gameplay at the stores are memorable and I miss them. I still get together with a few of the regulars here in the LA area. There’s about 5 game stores in the LA area but the military game content leaves much to be desired.

  10. I saw the store on Quincy this evening. How interesting.