A majority of ceiling panels were removed.

And the store was closed Monday to clean the carpet due to minor smoke and water damage.

But, overall, Ultima Gaming, located in the Washington Square Mall in Detroit Lakes, considered themselves lucky by being located on the opposite end of the mall from the areas that suffered greater smoke and water damage from a neighboring fire on Sept. 10.

The store reopened for business on Tuesday, Sept. 14 and held its first Ultima Dragon Highlander event on Sept. 18., drawing in nearly 30 participants to compete for a split of the $800 purse.

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"It's been a trying week, so it's nice to have everyone in the store playing," said Dave Jopp, owner of Ultima Gaming. "The whole point of the store is we want to create a space where people can come and just play. Just get away from everything and this (event) is, to my knowledge, the first of its kind event with a format that is usually not played competitively."

Jopp said he was out of town when he heard news of the fire that had broken out in an apartment above Mattison's Barbershop on Washington Avenue.

"I had one of my weekend staff covering and I got a call just saying that everyone was being evacuated and that was pretty much it," he said. "I was three hours away unfortunately, but we knew it was on the other end and all the fire crews were getting it under control."

Cleaning and inspection crews have been in and out of the store all week and recommended they remove their ceiling tiles for customer health, he said. There are also air purifiers running throughout the mall to soak up any excess moisture from the firefighting efforts.

Many of Ultima Gaming's regular customers called the store and were concerned after learning about the fire nearby.

"I was kind of wondering if the store was going to go up, or not," said Billy Crane, of Frazee. "So, I was worried because I come here quite often."

Crane said he comes to the store every Wednesday to play in Magic: The Gathering league nights, but some weeks he could spend three or four nights at the store playing a variety of games.

He added that he has made friends with some of the people who go to event nights, and, without Ultima Gaming, he may never have met them.

"It's just a big friendly community we have in here and it's awesome," said Crane. "If you want to have fun and just meet cool people, come play, we'll teach anybody how to play games, any game."

Nearly 30 gamers participate in the 1st Annual Ultima Dragon Highlander tournament event at Ultima Gaming in the Washington Avenue Mall in Detroit Lakes on Sept. 18, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)
Nearly 30 gamers participate in the 1st Annual Ultima Dragon Highlander tournament event at Ultima Gaming in the Washington Avenue Mall in Detroit Lakes on Sept. 18, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

Jopp said they are trying to cultivate a something-for-everyone community at the store and wants to host more league nights for any number of the strategy games people are currently playing. He added the PC-area of the store will also be back up next week for customer use and monthly pass holders.

"We definitely have our locals, our regulars, and they are absolutely what keeps (the store) churning," said Jopp. "The purpose of the (Ultima Dragon Highlander event) was to offer a little bit of a cash prize, maybe get some more competitive players and draw some more people out of the region."

The store specializes in strategic card games, like Magic: The Gathering, but also deals in retro video games and some table top board games as well.

"We do Smash Bros. tournaments every Saturday and the goal is to do free events so we can get as many people in to have fun," said Jopp.

Ultima Gaming hosts weekly gaming nights featuring: Dungeons and Dragons groups and Warhammer 40K on Tuesdays, and Magic: The Gathering Commander league nights on Wednesday.