Anarchy Disc Golf, Games & Hobbies Celebrates 2nd Anniversary

By Tara L. Cale

Mark Wooldridge, a Pana resident, had lucrative employment as a night manager for a big box retailer – or so he thought – until that retailer restructured, and decided to eliminate his position. Finding a comparable position with a new company was daunting, and proved to be unproductive. But Mark had a wife and two children to take care of.

So what’s a man to do?

Mark had always envisioned owning his own business, a business based on the things he enjoyed in his daily life. Because if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life – right?

But would it work? Because you see, Mark is involved in many things that don’t really jive with each other – gaming, such as Dungeons & Dragons, disc golf, vintage toys, card trading. Could he combine these loves into one business?

He mentioned his vision to a friend, who replied, “Combining those things would be total anarchy.”

Perhaps. But Mark was determined to follow his dream. So he decided to follow through and used the conversation with his friend to name his new business – Anarchy Disc Golf, Games and Hobbies.

To finalize his commitment, Mark posted a photo on Facebook of a conglomerate of games, and a calendar with the date of the planned opening circled – May 1, 2019. The commitment was now public, so … he had to follow through.

Mark said that once the word got out, it was like putting a match to tinder. Last month marked the second anniversary for Anarchy Disc Golf, Games, and Hobbies in Pana.

One of the first customers that came into Anarchy was Matt Passoni, who is now almost a permanent fixture in the store. Matt is a toy collector, and also a Dungeons & Dragons fan. He noticed the ample space that Anarchy Disc Golf, Games, and Hobbies occupied and asked Mark about hosting group play for the Dungeons & Dragon game. Mark thought it was an excellent idea and was all in.  Soon there were groups of people coming in to play on a regular basis.

I want to pause on the story about Anarchy Disc Golf, Games, and Hobbies and elaborate a bit on Dungeons & Dragons, in case some readers are as out-of-touch as I am about such things!  Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game. Each player creates their own character. These characters embark upon imaginary adventures within a fantasy setting. The characters form a party and they interact with the setting’s inhabitants and each other. Together they solve dilemmas, engage in battles, explore, and gather treasure and knowledge. In the process, the characters earn points in order to rise in levels and become increasingly powerful over a series of separate gaming sessions. The success of D&D led to a proliferation of similar game systems. Despite the competition, D&D has remained the market leader in the role-playing game industry and is the best-known, and best-selling, role-playing game in the US, with an estimated 20 million people having played the game, and more than $1 billion in book and equipment sales worldwide. The game has also won multiple awards and has been translated into many languages. So what I am saying is… it’s hot!

So is disc golf. And Mark is infatuated with disc golf. It was originally planned to be the anchor for the store, but the popularity of gaming forced it to take a less prominent position. Pana has a full disc golf course at Kitchell Park. There is a disc golf course in Decatur, Vandalia, Godfrey, Waterloo, Springfield, Bloomington, Collinsville, Carlyle, Forsyth, Highland, and other locations in Illinois. And in case you are like me (again) and don’t really know what disc golf is…players throw a disc (like a small frisbee) at a target; it is played using rules similar to golf. The sport is usually played on a course with 9 or 18 holes. Disc golf is played in about 40 countries and, as of 2020, there were over 70,000 active members of the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) worldwide. Mark is so infatuated with disc golf that the entire upstairs of the Anarchy store is a miniature disc golf course (open in the winter months when other courses are closed). The store carries disc golf equipment and supplies and Mark is involved in helping design a new disc golf course for the park in Tower Hill, IL.

The name of the Anarchy Disc Golf, Hobbies, and Games is fairly inclusive, but the details tell a bigger story. In addition to offering disc golf supplies, and a course for winter play, the store also carries board games, video games, trading cards, trendy toys – as well as vintage toys – collectibles, and much more. Mark and his crew, which includes his wife Christina, and the aforementioned Matt Passoni, can teach you how to play about any game you desire. Including what they say is the hottest game on the market right now – CATAN – a multiplayer board game where players take on the roles of settlers, each attempting to build and develop holdings while trading and acquiring resources.

What makes Anarchy Disc Golf, Games & Hobbies so successful in just a few years? Mark says “In order to find what we offer, you would have to drive to several larger towns and several locations in each of those towns. Or you could order online. People drive quite far to shop with us and we try to make it worth their while. We have the most popular items and have been very successful in pricing competitively in line with the big box stores like Wal-Mart, and also Amazon.”

Plus you can play the games right there in the store. There is no charge to play unless they are holding a tournament. And then any fees charged are returned to the players as prizes.

“Table space is for anyone to play any game,” Mark explained. “You can even bring in your own games and just use our space.”

The backroom is designated specifically for D&D players and has a large flat-screen TV embedded backside down in the table in order to allow for three-dimensional and realistic visual representation of backgrounds and scenery for the game.

The newest addition to the store is LARP items. LARP stands for “live-action role-play,” similar to Renaissance Festivals, according to Mark. They have foam shields and weapons and other LARP items and are working out details to possibly hold LARP festivals at the store, in the upstairs when the disc golf course is inactive.

COVID hit many small businesses hard and Anarchy suffered their own aches in 2020 with being a first-year store. Dedicated and loyal customers helped them pull through, however. And although COVID restrictions are lifting, some people still feel more comfortable wearing a mask, but at Anarchy… you can’t. Mark is hearing impaired and the only way he can communicate directly with his customers is by reading lips.

“My hearing impairment is not a volume issue. It’s a clarity issue. I have to be able to read your lips no matter how loud you talk,” he laughed.

For that same reason, you cannot call the store, you have to text. He cannot understand voices over the phone. And if you text and you do not get an immediate reply, don’t worry. The store is often very busy and he will get back to you as quickly as he can.

So if you are into disc golf, toys, collectibles, or games of any type… board games, fantasy table-top games, video games… or are considering it, the best choice for you is Anarchy Disc Golf, Games & Hobbies. Looking for a rare vintage toy or a hard-to-find trading card? Let them know and they will look for it when they attend shows. Anarchy is located at 31 E. 2nd Street in Pana and has very convenient hours. Monday through Friday they are open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Saturdays, they are open from 8 a.m. until midnight, and sometimes later, if an intense game is in progress. Sundays the store is open from noon until 5 p.m. For more information text Mark at 217-827-8369 or follow Anarchy Disc Golf, Games & Hobbies on Facebook.

Mark is also involved with the South Central Illinois Trading Cards & Collectibles Show that will be held on Saturday, June 19 at the Litchfield Community Center, 1100 S. State Street. Admission is free to this family-friendly event. Food concessions outside will be available by Off the Wall Chef Tacos and Journey for Jeremy Lemonade Stand. There will be a 50/50 drawing and a raffle for Cards and Cubs tickets. Those wishing to reserve a table to participate in the show should contact John Renner at 217-556-2987 or email [email protected]. Tables are $30 each or 2 for $50. All proceeds from the show will be donated to Hearts United in Litchfield.