Young entrepreneurs to roll the dice on board game café in College Park -- Gazette.Net


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Brian McClimens and Ben Epstein love board games so much, they spent $10,000 on them.

The former college housemates are planning to open a cafe this month called The Board and Brew, where patrons will choose from around 500 board games to play while they sip lattes or nibble on appetizers. The café, at 8150 Baltimore Ave. in College Park, is minutes from the owners’ alma mater, the University of Maryland, College Park.

“We’re both [UM] graduates and we know there’s no entertainment to speak of in College Park,” McClimens said. “The idea was that, no matter who walked in here, whether they are familiar with board games or not, we could find something that fit their interests.”

McClimens, 36, of Bowie and Epstein, 34, of Catonsville said they began playing board games in college, gravitating toward strategy games like Diplomacy and Eminent Domain.

Nearly three years ago, backed by investments from family and friends and a small business loan, the two men decided to open a board game coffee shop that focused on face-to-face interaction.

“We want people to come in and actually interact and not sit on their cellphones,” Epstein said. “It drives me nuts when I’m at a restaurant and I see two people hanging out together and they’re both on their phones. It’s like, really?”

McClimens said there are a handful of cafés on the East Coast that offer a small selection of board games, but their shop is modeled after a popular restaurant in Toronto, which has about 2,500 games and required a reservation two or three months in advance.

The Board and Brew Facebook page already touts more than 500 “likes,” mostly from users 25 to 34 years old, according to Facebook analytics.

Despite advancing technology and the inundation of smartphone apps and video games, McClimens and Epstein said, board games remain a popular form of entertainment. They said that about 90 percent of their games were created during the past 10 years.

The games at Board and Brew can be rented for $2.50 an hour, per person, with a maximum of $7.50 per person, Epstein said. They range from classic games, like Monopoly and checkers, to intense strategy games to family and group games.

McClimens said he thinks the social atmosphere and wide variety of games will draw customers looking for a group activity or a date night idea.

“I think the variety [will attract people],” he said. “Our collection is worth $10,000. I don’t think many people are going to spend that on a personal collection.”

McClimens and Epstein said their strangest game is called Ugg-Tect, a prehistoric architect game in which players instruct each other to build things through a series of grunts and hit each other on the head with blow-up clubs.

The café will serve snacks and appetizers, ranging from $4 to $10, as well as coffee, specialty coffee drinks and tea-based lattes, Epstein said.

The shop will not have a bar atmosphere, but McClimens and Epstein said they are getting a liquor license.

The entrepreneurs are not worried about game pieces getting grimy because they will not serve greasy food. Similar board game cafés in Canada report surprisingly little wear-and-tear on the pieces.

UM freshman Zack Rosenthal said The Board and Brew sounds like a place he would visit because there are not many café options in College Park.

“You throw in the board games with that, that could be awesome,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m an avid board game player, but I definitely enjoy it when I do.”

Graduate students Haiyu Lu and Soheila Bahmanjah said they definitely will visit the new board game cafe.

“This kind of thing is very popular in China,” Lu said. “They usually have this kind of place [where] you can drink tea or whatever the drink is and play the board games.”

Epstein said the goal is for each customer to find the right game and have a good time.

“We’re going to have great food and great coffee and great games,” he said. “We’re chill people. You know, we just want to have fun and bring people in who will have fun with us.”

eeastman@gazette.net