When husband-wife team and Beverly locals Ryn and Kevin Grant opened their board game café, The Castle, they were chasing a goal that resonates with most: turning their passion into a career. Avid board game enthusiasts their entire lives, Ryn and Kevin worked office jobs while pursuing their hobby on the side. “It came to a point where I had a great office job, but I didn’t love it,” says Ryn. “I figured, ‘If I can’t find the perfect job, we’ll have to make a job.’” Creating a profession out of a passion for board games isn’t a common pursuit, but research led Ryn and Kevin to the wildly popular Toronto board game café, Snakes and Lattes; after contacting the owner, the pair took a road trip to Canada to check out the café in person. “After that visit, we thought, ‘We could do this,’” says Ryn. “We started an Indiegogo campaign in January 2015 that helped fund the creation of The Castle.” With support from online donors, The Castle opened on Rantoul Street in Beverly last year.
Many locals are unfamiliar with the concept of a board game café, simply because The Castle is the first one in the area. The café is open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. In addition to a diverse selection of drinks, snacks, and sandwiches, The Castle has an unusual perk: a library of 350 board games ranging from family-friendly Sorry, Clue, and Monopoly to strategy-based Risk or Settlers of Catan. “A lot of the games came from our personal collection,” says Kevin. “Some come from customer donations as well. We’re always looking for new games to update the collection. Online communities like BoardGameGeek are a great resource—they have lists of every board game, ranked and reviewed by users.” Ryn and Kevin estimate that between them, they’ve personally tested well beyond 75 percent of The Castle’s games, focusing especially on simple games that don’t require “a 40- to 50-page rule book,” Kevin explains.
Accessibility is at the core of The Castle’s mission. “We strive to be open, welcoming, and friendly,” says Kevin. “A lot of our games can be learned in just a few minutes; they’re great for beginners or families with young children. At the same time, we do have more involved games for hardcore gamers, and customers can bring their own games from home. It’s important to strike a balance.” Visitors to The Castle vary widely—couples and families will often play for 45 minutes or an hour, while large groups occasionally camp out from open until close. “Some people prefer to play casually for an hour or two, while others just need a place to get food and have coffee while they play an intense game,” says Ryn. The Castle hosts special events about twice a month, often with a quirky theme. For instance, on May 4, they will celebrate Star Wars Day, a favorite for many board game enthusiasts.
Ryn and Kevin’s goals for The Castle were twofold—they hoped to create an outlet for their own love of board games while simultaneously contributing to the community in a unique and meaningful way. “I love that we have this avenue,” says Kevin. “The Castle has something to offer every demographic—kids, teenagers, young adults, families, seniors. We’re looking into ways to partner with local schools to offer after-school programs or free-game passes to students as an incentive. We’re so fortunate to be able to offer support to the community in an unexpected way.