From comic books to sports cards and more, collectors have had a friendly haven since 1985 at Bankston’s Sports Memorabilia, Comics & Collectibles.

There’s always been a sense of community within the walls of the shop, says owner Brent Bankston, but now the business has expanded in a new direction: a place where people and families can relax to play board or card games, vintage video games or even arcade-style pinball machines. Even get a bite to eat.

That spot — just a short distance from the comics shop’s door — is named King’s Landing. Its logo is a lion wearing a crown. It’s meant to evoke the character of the lion ruler Aslan from C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

“We want this to be your ‘third place,’ ” Brent said. “You have home. You have work. This can be that third place to hang out. And like on ‘Cheers,” it’s where everybody knows your name.”

He also wants it to be a place where families can set aside that cell phone and enjoy each other’s company while playing card or board games.

But also it's a place to eat and drink. King’s Landing sells coffee and soda, as well as adult beverages such as beer and wine. Speciality coffee is brewed up by Jacob Woolsey, who worked at Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits in downtown Waco. He even created the business’ own blend of coffee, named Excalibur, after the famous sword of King Arthur.

Inside the store is the Butter My Biscuit cafe, run by Brent’s wife, Lee.

“You would be amazed how good the food is,” Brent said. His wife has a background in catering. “It’s restaurant-good. She does an incredible job.”

Lee only half-jokingly says that when they married, the one thing she made Brent promise her was that she would not have to work in the comics store. He’s kept his word on that.

Now she’s closer to him more often with the cafe. For now, the cafe offers its full menu of flavorful made-from-scratch biscuits and baked potatoes, homemade soups, sandwiches and appetizers only on Friday evenings and Saturdays.

There’s even a two-hour break between 2 and 4 p.m. Saturdays just to have time to bake more biscuits, Lee said.

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Friends Ricco Elfrez (clockwise from bottom left), Anthony McClain, Kevin Reveles, Jerardo Contreras and Donye Flores play the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game in the back section of the store, which also has old console TVs for playing retro video games as well as pinball machines.

Something New

Brent and longtime friend and Bankston’s store manager Jamie Cooley had been looking at new ways to expand the business, beyond just getting more room. Three years ago Bankston’s was able to acquire space next door in the strip center. A wall was knocked down, and the store resdesigned that extra space into a new section for the sports memorabilia while opening up the comics area.

Brent says he’s felt God’s providence has been at work in creating King’s Landing as events seemed to line up to make it happen.

Brent and the Bankston’s crew would always meet on Saturday mornings before the store opened to have breakfast together. About a year ago on one of those Saturday mornings they noticed that the Pizza Patron restaurant in the corner space near the store had closed. Surprisingly, the properties manager for that building was also in town that day, so Jaime and Brent got to check out the interior, seeing the kitchen and the potential for a new gaming home and a whole lot more.

A call was made to Lee. “Hey, I’ve got a kitchen for you,” Brent told her.

It took a while to renovate the space and get all the necessary permits and approvals from the city. The first Sunday each May is Free Comic Book Day, where publishers make a number of their books available for free to entice new readers, especially the younger set.

Last year Bankston’s saw 2,000 customers come into the store that day, with a line wrapped around the corner outside. Many also took the opportunity to go into King’s Landing and check it out, though it was a far cry from where it is now.

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Jacob Woolsey, the brewmaster at King’s Landing serves up a cup of coffee. He previously worked at Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits and has created a special blend, Excalibur, for the business.

Appealing to Many

Lee has been amazed at the variety of customers who come in, for the fun as well as the food.

“We have a weekly group of 80-year-old ladies who come in and play Mahjong,” she said. “And they love it!”

King’s Landing schedules nights for people to play certain games, but there’s also family nights for families to come out and play board games, she said. Jamie’s knowledge of gaming served him well in helping set up and stock the games for King’s Landing.

Past the lobby, which is filled with board games and more for sale, and the coffee area, gaming enthusiasts can be discover a room filled with old-style video games that they can play on vintage, large console televisions. A row of pinball machines has been popular, too, especially with the older crowd.

“We had a class reunion here, which was mostly women,” Jamie said, “But some of them were joined by their husbands and they told us, ‘My husband came because you have the pinball.’ ”

Lee agreed that those “old-school” games can be a draw for some.

“We’ve had people say they love to come here and feel like a kid again,” Lee said.

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Lee Bankston often puts photos of the items she prepares of the King’s Landing Facebook page. This is her BPT (bacon pimento tomato) potato, which has butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon, green onions and a scoop of her house-made pimento cheese.

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Lee Bankston often puts photos of the items she prepares of the King’s Landing Facebook page. This is a buttermilk biscuit topped with smoked pork, barbecue sauce, cole slaw and pickles served with white potato salad.

Serving Up Food

As the name Butter My Biscuit imples, most of the offerings are biscuit-based, with a number of add-ons and toppings that range from buffalo chicken to pork tenderloin to tamales to meatball marinara.

Specials are usually posted on social media and the What Brent Had Special — which can change all the time and has even been a spur-of-the-moment concoction — has proven to be popular with customers.

She recalled with a chuckle one Saturday morning when she created that day’s What Brent Had Special and sold three of them for breakfast before Brent was able to eat his.

Another popular sandwich is the BPT — bacon, pimento cheese and tomato — which may not sound as appetizing as some options, but it’s really tasty, she says.

Lee's culinary skills started by cooking for family and friends, such as women at church. Her homemade tamales were a big hit, and she was able to sell them. That grew to more food choices and requests to make the goodies.

“It was just people we knew; phone numbers that we had,” Lee said. “I’d let people know I was making something and I’d take orders.”

From there she started catering small affairs, such as reunions and Christmas and Super Bowl parties.

Now she has her own kitchen at Butter My Biscuit. No more selling food out of their home.

Word of mouth remains strong, she said. Lee recalled someone popping into King’s Landing recently and saying, “I’m looking for Lee’s restaurant.”

They hope to expand the hours, but that will depend on finding help for Lee in the kitchen.

“We are learning from ground zero,” Lee said. “But I’m proud of the food we serve.”

Still Evolving

Brent and Jaime agree that while the approach with King’s Landing is novel, they are still figuring things out.

“We’re like a table with many legs underneath it; and we keep adding more to make it more stable,” Brent said. The geek culture, which has long found a home with the comics at Bankston’s, is much more pervasive today and they are tapping into that interest, he said.

Bankston’s has regular customers that travel between San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth who slip off the interstate to pop into the store for a break from that drive, Jamie said.

“Now they get their comics or sports cards and then go to Kings Landing and get something to eat, too,” he added.

King’s Landing will have its grand opening on March 17, which will have numerous promotions associated with it.

“We’re not firing on all cylinders yet,” Brent said. “But we’ll get there.”

King’s Landing

1427 S. Valley Mills Drive

254-752-2333

Mon-Sat, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sun, noon to 6 p.m.

Butter My Biscuit cafe

(inside King’s Landing)

Full-menu hours:

Fri, 4 to 9 p.m.

Sat, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 to 9 p.m.

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Editor for Waco Today magazine and community editor at the Waco Tribune-Herald