Well Played Board Game Café in Asheville to reopen after pandemic
Owners Kevan Frazier and Steve Green found it fitting that a phoenix represents the Well Played Board Game CafÃ©. It is, after all, the renaissance of coffee that closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and is set to reopen this winter.
It’s been more than a year since it closed, but contractors are predicting a comeback.
In March 2017, Well Played debuted at 58 Wall St. Soon it will be opening in a new location, 162 Coxe Ave., in the old Chrysler building.
In March 2020, the company closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In August 2020, owners pivoted services to offer take-out board game rentals, snacks and drinks. Despite changes to the business model and funding for relief, the cafe was “limping,” Frazier said.
âWe did well, but it was nowhere near enough to support the company,â Frazier said.
In October 2020, Well Played closed and everything inside was put into storage.
âWe were disappointed when we had to close on Wall Street, and the community let us know as well. I think they were as sad as we are, âGreen said.
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In the summer of 2021, the decision was made to try and give coffee another chance.
âWe did a real soul-searching because it’s definitely a great company to come back with it,â Frazier said. âBut we felt it was really important to be back in our community. We’ve had such a surge of support all this time. People said they missed Well Played and there was a place like that.
Initially, the creation of Well Played was driven by the growth of board game culture.
In 2016, the partners learned of the growing popularity of board game cafes, followed by a trip to Toronto to visit North America’s first registered board game cafe.
âWe felt it was the total vibe of Asheville,â Frazier said. “We wanted to create a place where everyone could come together and feel totally welcome and just have fun.”
They came up with a plan for a local board game cafe that would be family friendly but suitable for seniors.
âPart of our framework is for the adults to come and have fun,â Frazier said.
Another goal was to get people to disconnect electronic devices in a tech-driven world and reconnect with other humans.
âThe re-emergence of Well Played is interesting,â Green said. âWe always started Well Played with the idea of ââputting the gadgets down, unplugging everything and having conversations with people about board games. Now it feels like it’s even more important with the pandemic to bring people together. “
AVL gaming culture
Well Played opened with an integrated board game community that continues to evolve. Board game culture has grown significantly over the past 20 years, attributed to the release of the German game, Settlers of Catan, Frazier said.
âOver the past 10 years it has continued to grow and over the past five years it has hit the ceiling,â Frazier said.
There is also a community of board game designers in Asheville, Frazier said. And from March 11-13, the MACE West Tabletop Gaming Convention will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Asheville.
Frazier knows of a few board game clubs that have formed locally, including the Asheville Board Game Club, which works to strengthen the gaming community.
Board game enthusiast Sam Lee has also noticed the increase over the past two decades, he said. He and his wife, Alicia, embraced this part of “nerd culture” – which has become mainstream. Interest in board games may have become more widespread during the pandemic.
âThat’s not to say that board game cafes are the only sign of the adult board game community, but I think it’s a good indicator,â Lee said. âCOVID in particular has had an impact on people’s interest in playing games. This is what a lot of people have turned to over the past two years as something to do – stay and have some more fun. . As things have opened up again, this is a great way for people to hang out and socialize in a way that feels comfortable. It is not a big crowd. in a lively bar. It’s everyone at their own table in their little pods. “
Lee and his wife started playing board games with friends on a regular basis in the Raleigh area.
âAs a person – a millennial – looking to socialize, there’s not much you can do except go to bars around town or to concerts,â Lee said. âIf you go out on a particular weekday evening and you don’t drink, you end up in a bar and you really don’t have anything there that’s especially for you.
In June, after moving to Asheville, they planned to go to Well Played but were disappointed to learn that the business had closed. Two weeks later, they decided to start a small board game club that would serve as entertainment and meeting people.
Asheville Board Game Club was founded and people were invited to join the group’s Facebook page. Members started meeting weekly at local businesses that offered alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages. Currently, the club meets from 5:30 p.m. at the Noble Cider on Leicester Highway and plans to meet monthly at Well Played once it opens, Lee said.
Seven people attended game night one, and the number quickly grew to an average of 20 to 40 people each week, Lee said. The demographics range from 20-year-olds to retirees.
Some members attend with a significant other or friends. Many of those who attend are recent transplants like Lee. The club served as the place to start the friendship, something Lee said he has seen happen in the past six months.
âWhat a great way to meet new people who have at least one thing in common: playing games together,â Frazier said.
Adults who play games have benefits beyond social aspects, such as improved mental health, Lee said.
âIt keeps the mind fresh and solves problems,â Lee said. “I learn a new game every week. The best thing about it is that all of our members bring their own games that they usually know how to play. … Someone learns a game every week, which is good for the brain . “
Guests do not need to know how to play games to attend ABGC or to visit Well Played.
At Well Played, guests choose which of the more than 800 games to play at their table. The staff are familiar with the games to help new players, Frazier said.
âWe want people to see Well Played as the hub for board games in Asheville and somewhere that’s easy to get to,â Frazier said.
There is no limit to the number of games guests can play. Game fees are charged and allow players to play all day. They can play, go, come back and play some more during that business day.
âLocals will also have monthly, quarterly and annual passes,â Frazier said.
Food and drinks can be purchased and brought to their table. The menu will consist of small plates including snacks, dips, pretzel bites, sandwiches, shakes and ice cream.
âPeople knew us for these gigantic cookies that we made. We will continue to make them,â Frazier said.
Hours of operation are to be determined but will be extended to cater for morning, afternoon and evening customers, he said. The coffee will work more like coffee in the morning, with a more robust coffee program. Beer, wine and a selection of cocktails will also be on the drink menu.
âWe try to take care of people from bow to stern when they’re in there,â Frazier said. “Kind of like when you go to your friend’s house and his parents take care of you while you play board games.”
Games returned will be sanitized by an ozonator – a machine that produces ozone in an area – before being put back on the shelves, he said.
“We will do everything possible to make it clean and safe for everyone,” he said.
Parties can sit at individual tables or in the living room equipped with sofas and chairs. An outdoor seating area is provided.
âIt’s a much bigger space than what we had before,â Frazier said. âWe think our capacity will be between 130 and 140 people. It’s a big space, so people can be comfortable.
On the southern slope, the owners of Well Played anticipate both tourists and locals.
âI can’t imagine the upward trend in board games changing anytime soon. Everyone loves a good board game, âsaid Green.
Tiana Kennell is the food reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter / Instagram @PrincessOfPage.