And Now for Something a Little Different:
Board Game Island
By Terry Card
“Let’s do something different tonight. Maybe go somewhere, where we can become immersed in a game – like the ones online – drink some craft beer, and get a bite to eat. You know how I love gaming – but online you just sit there by yourself all the time. That can get boring. The place I heard about has board games, card games, and puzzles, and best of all it lets me take you on, head to head!”
“What’s it called?” “Board Game Island” “OK. Let’s give it a try.”
Originally opened in 2013, Board Game Island was bought in October 2016 by Debra Bergland R.N., a currently active floor nurse at Memorial Hermann in the Texas Medical Center. Debra has been in the profession for twenty-five years, seventeen of which were at UTMB. Originally a Canadian, born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, at twenty-nine she went back to school, deciding that bartending was not a lifelong career for her.
Since she is still nursing, Curtis manages the business and essentially, runs the establishment. More of a local, Curtis was born in Conroe, Texas. His father was a police officer and his mother worked in a bank. Curtis graduated from the University of Houston and became a consultant, working for a law firm, but found that it was not for him. He wanted to be on his own and in a different business.
He put his legal training to use, researching different business models and discovered that board game establishments were one of the fastest growing businesses worldwide. They have had tremendous growth, especially in Canada and Asia. He found that people liked them because they are not a traditional bar or restaurant, yet appealed to online gamers because they could still play games. The difference is that they are able to play games with real live people, chat while playing over a beer or coffee, and have something to eat. He felt that this was the business for him, but first, he had to gain some experience while he saved to open his own company. However, the opportunity to learn and ultimately manage the business he wanted to be in, resulted in him being happily engaged at Board Game Island.
It is the human interaction that is most gratifying at Board Game Island. Games appeal to a huge segment of our modern day society, but playing games solely online is isolating, and gamers are starting
to realize that they miss the human interaction. They want to be able to talk to someone faceto face. To do that while still playing challenging games, and have something to eat and drink at the same time is becoming more and more and more popular.
It is helpful that Board Game Island is reputed to have the best coffee on the Strand, carrying a variety of specialty coffees. They also have an array of craft beer. One of their suppliers is Galveston Island Brewery, a local brewery on Stewart Road. On tap, they have Austin East Sides, St. Arnolds, and Buffalo Bayou Ginger Bread South, an excellent dark beer.
A great snack to go with their drink selection is a Texas-size pretzel. For those who want good food that can be eaten while playing, they can order freshly made pizza, club sandwiches including toasted BLT, or Board Game Island’s own pizza sandwich.
If the idea that learning unfamiliar new games may be somewhat daunting, the friendly waitstaff/game tenders will help you select and learn a game before taking your food and drink order. The games are included free with the purchase of food or drink. Otherwise, there is a nominal charge for playing.
Fortunately, when Debra bought the business most of the amenities were in place. It just needed a thorough two-week cleaning and paint job. A few added touches, like the loveseat and coffee table, allowed them to create a Victorian nook, adding to the atmosphere as well as the decor.
Their customer base is about 50/50 tourists and locals. Many of the locals range from students at UTMB (University of Texas Medical Branch) and TAMUG (Texas A&M University Galveston) to people looking for something that the entire family can enjoy together and retirees who want a quiet night out in a non-smoking environment. Smokers can sit outside at the two tables provided, one under the shade of an umbrella. The other is usually laden with a chess board and too many passersby stop to watch the action to allow for an umbrella. The tourists mostly are awaiting their cruise embarkation or taking in the sights after returning. Of course, added to that are tourists who take a day from the beach and explore the Strand. Since Board Game Island is just off the Strand, they attract many of these tourists.