The owners of The Boardroom Cafe think Guelph is ripe for the picking.
Already popular in bigger cities, and with three in Kitchener, The Boardroom: Guelph's Game Cafe is set to open at 99 Wyndham St. N (the olds Pond's Camera location) some time in April.
The Boardroom will be Guelph's second board came cafe, following on the heels of The Roundtable on Essex Street. A third one has also been proposed for the second floor of the Petrie Building on Wyndham Street once renovations and licensing issues there are sorted out.
"Kitchener is two and a half times the size of Guelph and they have three of them. On Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays they are at capacity and turning people away," says The Boardroom co-owner Kevin Bowman.
He and his three partners, David Gundrum, Rodrigo Goller and Jonathan Feddema, have been busy building awareness for the new venture by holding game nights at 10 Carden St. and a monthly event at eBar that has seen up to 100 people attend.
Bowman and Gundrum met at the University of Guelph a few years ago. They met Goller and Feddema through their mutual love of board games.
About a year ago they decided to go all-in and open their own board game cafe, with Bowman, a former City of Guelph bus driver, taking lead.
"They were popping up all over the place. We knew there were lots of people in Guelph that played, but no cafe," he said.
The cafe will charge $5 for use of its games library, with most of the revenues to come from food and beverage sales. Eventually they hope to add a liquor licence.
Gaming cafes offer several advantages to playing at home, Bowman said.
"It gives you the opportunity to play with other people you don't know, it gives you the opportunity to focus on digging into the game. You don't have to worry about playing host. There's a lot less hassle," Bowman said.
The Boardroom will seat between 50 and 60 people. Bowman said he expects to be at capacity on Friday and Saturday.
"We expect a core of regulars that we'll see often. But we want it open and inviting to everybody," he said.
The four owners have also started a Kickstarter funding campaign that has raised $4,600 of a $10,000 goal towards the cost of opening Boardroom.
With renovations well underway, the Kickstarter campaign is as much about awareness as it is raising money, Bowman said.
"It's almost more useful in terms of promotion than funds in some ways," he says.
Guelph city councillor Mark MacKinnon has a long history of involvement with board games. In addition to hosting regular board game nights at his house, MacKinnon is an award-winning board game designer and owns a board game company that publishes his own creations and those of others..
MacKinnon is working with the owners of he Boardroom to help them get going and to help them with the Kickstarter campaign.
"Southwestern Ontario is ripe for this type of endeavour," MacKinnon said. "Guelph is a fairly connected community. It's artistic and it's welcoming. This just fits within the niche we have."
MacKinnon said board game cafes are social, convenient and allow gamers the opportunity to play-test new games without investing what can be up to $100 to purchase one.
Bowman said there is plenty of business to go around between The Boardroom and The Round Table. He even thinks Guelph could handle a third one if it were in the south end.