If you’ve been a miniatures hobbyist over the past twenty years, chances are you may have had dealing with the The WarStore. What you may or may not have heard was the passing of the owner, Neal Catapano, this past week.
Housed on the property of Catapano Farms, on the North Fork of Long Island in Southold, NY, the online store had a two-decade history of serving customers near and far before closing suddenly in 2019. Founded in 1999 and just a few years behind online retail giants like eBay and Amazon, Neal’s online store was a bit ahead of its time in the gaming community. The modest online store held a broad inventory of modeling paint, brushes and supplies as well rule books, player aids and miniatures and terrain covering multiple eras, scales and interest from fantasy to sci-fi to historical. Neal was always my first stop before I had a look elsewhere.
Living in nearby Brooklyn and less than a three hour drive away, I regret I never made the pilgrimage to Southold but I was always grateful I received speedy responses to my inquiries and quick delivery of my orders. People notoriously groused online (as people do) about poor customer service, but this was never my experience in my dozens of orders over the years. To the contrary, I found Neal and the staff to be incredibly responsive to inquiries, order updates and special orders — an unfortunate rarity in today’s lowered expectations of impersonal customer service in an ecommerce world. With every online order, my heart always soared with the very personal email verfication:
“Hi! This is Neal at TheWarstore.com. Thank you Very Much for placing your order with us! This email is to confirm that we have received your order, an actual human being has reviewed it here at the store, and we will ship as soon as all of your ordered items can be readied.”
With the decline of local NYC hobby stores, Neal’s WarStore split the difference with a small, independently owned shop feel and the convenience of a 24/7 website. I looked forward to his quirky sale announcements, pre-release specials and holiday shopping messages. The online store wasn’t always the easiest to navigate, although it had improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Neal’s title of “Grand Pooh Bah” and his personal email of email@example.com in all communication contributed to the small store experience increasingly absent from the modern world. Although a brick and mortar store had been an extension of The Warstore at one point in its history, it was through the unique online presence that Neal’s legacy was made.
When Neal announced an abrupt shuttering of the business in the middle of last year and a hurried final sale, I felt in the pit of my stomach there was most likely something deeper behind the decision. This past week’s news of his passing confirmed that feeling and charted the true passing of an era.
Rest in peace Neal and The WarStore where their motto spoke volumes to thousands of loyal customers: “We Bring the War to Your Door, For Less!”