More than 16 months since Spielbound opened in midtown, the tabletop masses are still coming in in droves — so much so that the board game cafe is extending its hours.
Starting this week, Spielbound is now open on Mondays, making the nonprofit shop a seven-days-a-week operation: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Mondays previously served as a catch-up day for staff, but there were just too many peeks into windows and too many knocks on the door to stay closed for the day.
“We have our staff meeting here on Monday nights,” said Kaleb Michaud, CEO and co-founder of Spielbound. “A lot of people walked by and saw people inside. They came by the door, but we had to turn them away. We thought, ‘OK, maybe we should be open on Mondays.’ ”
The idea for the game haven grew out of talks and emails between Michaud and his friend and now COO Scott O’Dell. The board game cafe got off the ground thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter set a goal of $15,000 for startup expenses. It made its goal and then some, its final donated tally nearly $28,000. More than 300 people donated.
In early 2015 the board game side of the operation was granted tax-exempt status as a 501c(3). The board game library charges $5 for a day pass and also offers monthly and yearly memberships.
The cafe side — which serves coffee, food, beer and wine — is a separate and for-profit business.
Michaud said business on both fronts has surpassed their initial expectations.
“We are at the amount of clientele we expected in year three,” he said. “And it’s good and bad. Obviously it’s good because it means this is an idea that people are happy with and like. The bad part is we’ve had less time to make improvements.”
Still, he said, it’s been fun to prove the naysayers wrong.
“It was a bit of an experiment,” he said. “Some people said it would not do well enough to be in Omaha. But who knew that it was such an untapped market waiting to be tapped?”
Spielbound lives at 33rd and Harney Streets in the former location of Attic Bar & Grill and, before that, Jets. It has an occupancy of 104, which, Michaud said, it frequently meets, especially on weekends.
On Friday and Saturday nights, Spielbound gets so close to capacity that a staff member has to stand out front and turn people away. This “friendly bouncer” is usually Steve Dawes, game manager and librarian.
“I tell people all the time that on Friday and Saturday nights, if you’re not here by about 6 p.m., you might not be getting a table,” Dawes said. “You may be on the waitlist. It’s a great problem, but I feel bad for everyone who can’t play. There’s nothing worse than coming in and looking forward to playing a game and then having to wait in line.”
As business and hours have grown, so too have the number of games. When Spielbound opened in the fall of 2014 it had about 1,100 games in its library. Now that number is around 2,000, about 1,750 of them catalogued. Most of the games are in the basement and are regularly circulated through the main-floor library.
“We have a bit of a vault,” Michaud said.
The most in-demand games (Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride) have multiple copies in the vault, and that’s coming in handy at the moment.
“The winter is our busiest time,” Michaud said. “Because, you know, it’s a great time to play games.”
He looked through the window of Spielbound at the snow outside.
“It’s not such a great time to be outside.”