By Jason Wesseldyk
Inspiration struck Eric Luthy four years ago.
A fan of tabletop gaming since the 1980s, Luthy came across an article about a board game café in Chicago. Soon, Luthy and his wife Susan—whose own interest in board games had begun in earnest about a year prior—started having discussions about what it would be like to operate a board game café of their own.
“We talked about the concept of a board game café and things we would like to incorporate if we ever had the opportunity,” Luthy said.
That opportunity came in late 2020 when the Luthys were informed of the availability of a building located at 124 E. Bridge St. in downtown Plainwell.
“We were able to buy the building and start designing our vision,” Luthy said. “We brought in a couple friends who we had gamed with for close to 20 years as some minor investors and employees. We incorporated and started to have brainstorming meetings on what we wanted to do and bring to the community.”
And after nearly two years of planning and hard work, the Luthys’ vision became a reality as they held the soft opening for Around the Board Game Café on Thursday, Aug. 4. The grand opening—complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony—took place on Saturday, Aug. 6.
“The grand opening was beyond our expectations,” Luthy said. “The community support has been fantastic and we are so grateful and appreciative for all the support we are getting. We have heard from people as far away as Indiana and Illinois.
“We are excited for the many people that have crossed our paths and stated that they not only have heard about us, but plan on coming regularly. We are truly humbled that we have been given the opportunity to bring our vision and dream to the community.”
Around the Board features a rentable library of nearly 1,000 games, which are divided into three categories: free, standard and premium.
Games in the free section are, as its name suggests, free to use.
Games in the standard section game be rented for a daily fee of $5 per person, with children able to play for free. The one-time fee covers the entire day and allows the individual to play as many games as desired.
The premium section is open to those enrolled in a monthly or yearly membership. Memberships are available for individuals are families, with a family membership covering two adults and all children living in the household.
“The premium games are games that are rare, difficult to replace or high value games,” Luthy said. “We have dozens of games that are valued at 100s of dollars. We have several games valued between 500 to 1000. These games will be made available to customers that have memberships.
“The rental fees help replace games and add new games to the library.”
Members also include a 50 percent discount on fountain drinks and a 50 percent discount on select events held at Around the Board.
Customers are also welcome to bring in their own games as they enjoy a bite to eat off the café’s menu, which features a variety of appetizers, sides, entrees and drink options.
“We will be operating a full kitchen and will have drinks on tap, along with premium coffee,” Luthy said. “We have also partnered with The Grazing Table in Kalamazoo to offer select charcuterie options and we are currently in the process of getting licensed to sell beer.”
According to Luthy, Around the Board strives to cater to people of all ages by offering games and events of many genres.
“We plan on offering traditional boardgames as well as more modern boardgames,” Luthy said.
Well-known titles include Magic the Gathering, Pokémon, Flesh and Blood and Dungeons and Dragons.
In addition to the games available for rent, Around the Board will also feature a retail section of games and cards.
Events that will be hosted include trivia nights, murder mystery nights, tournaments and clinics.
“We are planning on having many different types of events, from all genres,” Luthy said. “We will also have game clinics and campaign events.
“The clinics will be games that people can sign up for and we will teach the game to the customers. These games will be from both our standard and premium collection. The campaign events will be games that are more story-driven and will take 40 or even 60 hours to complete. These may be an eight, 10 or even 12-week event that customers will sign up to play on the same night each week, with the same group of people.”
Many of the ideas that the Luthys incorporated from Around the Board came from other board game cafés as well as potential customers.
“After we bought the building, we started doing some research and visited many board game cafes in several different states,” Luthy said “We were able to talk to other owners about the challenges and opportunities that they experienced.
“Then, we put together a business plan and sent out a survey where we had a couple hundred responses in just 10 days. The information we gained was very beneficial and used in shaping our ideas. We are proud to be able to bring this exciting concept to West Michigan and Plainwell.”
For more information about Around the Board, visit its website at aroundtheboardgamecafe.com.