If the sudden drop in temperature and the constant piles of schoolwork have you yearning for an indoor escape, The Board Room, a recent addition to Middletown’s Main Street, might be just the place for you.
Jennifer Alexander ’88 launched The Board Room in June. Her goal in opening the café was to bring people together through play.
“The Board Room is a board game café where people interested in games can build a community,” she said.
A long, narrow space holding a kitchen, table space, music, and shelves filled with games, The Board Room is intended to serve as a lighthearted and stress-free zone.
“People come because they want to have fun,” Alexander said.
Since her days as a student, Alexander has not tired of Main Street’s diversity and liveliness. During her four years at the University, she found herself becoming increasingly involved in Main Street. The street, as she sees it, is as a place where people of all different ages, socioeconomic statuses, and ethnicities from Middletown and surrounding towns can come to have a good time.
She drew a contrast between Middletown and her hometown in suburban New Jersey. Alexander explained that where she is from, people come home from work, stay in their houses for the night, and count that as success.
“While Middletown is a small town, Main Street is a truly genuine and urban place where people live in public,” she said. “I find that exciting and open.”
Since opening, the café has attracted as diverse crowd a crowd as Main Street does as a whole. The core customer demographic includes groups of friends in their 20s and 30s. However, it is not uncommon for children to come into The Board Room with their parents to play Life or Candy Land. The café also attracts a regular group of teenagers, dubbed the “game nerds” by Alexander, who come after school to eat and play. Every Friday, The Board Room hosts Magic the Gathering drafts and Go Club, a group that plays the Japanese game Go.
“It takes five minutes to learn and a lifetime to master,” Alexander said of Go.
Alexander hopes that the three-hundred-plus games lining the shelves of her store offer something for everybody. A cheaper alternative to bars, or movies, or shows, The Board Room is also home to role-playing games such as Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons, as well as strategy, Euro, and cooperative games such as Pandemic or Shadows Over Camelot, in which everyone plays together against the game. One of Alexander’s favorites is Werewolf, which is a psychological game that can include anywhere from 15 to 60 people.
Alexander connects to games on a personal level. Over the last several years, she and her family started to see board game cafés in major cities like Austin, Denver, and New York. They became interested in opening a similar establishment of their own. Ultimately, Alexander opened The Board Room when it got to the point that she and her kids, who range in age from 13 to 23 and who often make appearances at the café, couldn’t fit all their games at their house.
“The café is now a way to justify buying all the games we want to buy and try,” she said.
For only five dollars, you can stay and play at The Board Room all day long. Customers can come and go as they please, to grab a quick bite to eat at one of Main Street’s many restaurants or to go get some homework done for school. The Board Room also offers snacks for those who are perhaps too absorbed in their games to leave. Foods made for sharing, such as carrots and hummus, cheese and crackers, and chips and homemade guacamole, are all available. The most popular dining selections among The Board Room crowd are the freshly baked cookies and pour-over coffee, both made to order.
Alexander is heavily involved in the Middletown business culture. In addition to managing The Board Room, she runs Kidcity, Middletown’s children’s museum, as well as Vinnie’s Jump and Jive, a community dance hall. She said the city is a great place to try out small business ideas.
“Middletown is a small town where you get to play in the sandbox,” she said.
The Board Room is open on Tuesday through Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., on Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., on Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on Mondays when it rains.
“Middletown has room for [you] to leave [your] mark,” Alexander said.