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Kingmakers bar plays cards, defeats board-dom in Columbus

Melissa Vargo searches through board games at Kingmakers, which carries about 230 titles. The board game parlour is located at 17 Buttles Ave.  Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Patron Melissa Vargo searches through board games at Kingmakers, which carries about 230 titles. The board game parlor is located at 17 Buttles Ave.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

One Ohio State alumnus is transforming the beloved pastime of weekend board game nights into a new business opportunity.

Kingmakers, a board game parlor located at 17 Buttles Ave., encourages visitors to revel in the nostalgic memories of late-night games of Life and Risk by exploring its extensive collection of board games housed on the shelves.

Malika de Silva, who graduated with an MBA from the OSU Fisher College of Business in 2010, founded Kingmakers, which opened its doors Jan. 7. De Silva said she became interested in opening a business of her own shortly after starting graduate school.

“I had this idea my first year of business school that I really wanted to open my own business,” she said.

After moving to San Francisco and experiencing the world of corporate business as an inventory planner for Williams Sonoma, de Silva returned to Columbus with her sights set on smaller, local business endeavors.

“I’ve been basically trying to open this business for about a year and a half,” said de Silva.

The popularity of board game cafés has gained considerable momentum throughout the world, with independently owned shops appearing in cities such as Toronto and New York. The cafés typically serve food and drinks and offer guests the opportunity to pay a small cover or rental fee to gain access to a vast collection of board games.

Some cafés, such as Toronto’s Snakes & Lattes, have libraries featuring more than 3,000 board and card games. De Silva said Kingmakers has about 230 titles on its shelves, but expects the collection to grow.

“I think that we could just grow and grow our library,” de Silva said. “I think that’s definitely something we want to do.”

While adding to the parlor’s collection continues to be an ongoing project, de Silva said one aspect of Kingmakers is the staff’s ability to educate guests about each game.

“The most important thing for us has been to have our servers, who we’re calling ‘board game sommeliers,’ really be able to wrap their minds around the games and know how to teach (our guests),” de Silva said.

From classic favorites like Clue to multiple collectors’ editions of Monopoly, Kingmakers aims to cater to guests of all ages.

“It’s definitely a very thought-out collection … everything is on the shelf for a reason,” de Silva said. “We are looking for games that are really fun, games that are social and get people to interact or to think or to laugh or to be silly … games that are really enjoyable to a wide audience.”

De Silva said Columbus is an ideal city in which to open a business like Kingmakers.

“Columbus is generally very supportive of small business and new enterprises,” she said. “I think (Columbus is) always looking for a great idea and something new to try.”

Columbus is home to an active board gaming community. Members of the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society, based in Worthington, have won more than 50 World Boardgaming Championships and host an annual gaming convention each fall, according to their website.

Additionally, the Origins Game Fair, organized by The Game Manufacturers Association, a nonprofit trade association based in Columbus, is hosted at the Greater Columbus Convention Center each year.

OSU currently has at least two board gaming organizations: Board to Death and the Miniatures and Gaming Association.

De Silva said she believes that the Columbus community is happy to come to a place like Kingsmakers.

“I think people are having a good time and we’ve gotten some great feedback,” she said.

Matthew Thompson, a fourth-year in electrical engineering, said Kingmakers adds diversity to the entertainment options available to OSU students and their friends in the Columbus area.

“It’s a good idea because it gives more places for you and your friends to actually hang out with each other,” he said. “Going to places like Kingmakers allows you to actually have interactions with other people and have fun in a nice environment.”

De Silva said she hopes Kingmakers continues to make a name for itself in the Columbus area.

“What we’re hoping is that we will have a very consistent experience. So when you come down to Kingmakers, you know what you’re getting for the evening,” she said. “It’s a very casual, easy-going place to hang out. People who have come down to Kingmakers say it’s very uplifting and it’s a very nice environment. I guess that’s what we’re going for.”

Kingmakers is open from Tuesday to Thursday 5–10 p.m., Fridays 5 p.m. — midnight, Saturdays 1 p.m. — midnight and Sundays 1–10 p.m. A $5 library fee gives visitors unlimited access to Kingmakers’ collection of games.

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