Left: Keating Tufts, left, and David Casinghino, two of the co-owners of Boards and Brews. Photo by Christine Carignan.
Boards and Brews co-owner Keating Tufts burned the midnight oil as a student at Southern NH University in Manchester, but it wasn’t always to study. His apartment was often jammed late into the night with friends playing board games like The Resistance or Ticket to Ride. Tufts says he was always looking for new games, and when he discovered a games café in Toronto, he thought it would be cool to have one in his hometown of Manchester. He immediately started collecting board games.
Tufts knew that a board game café would fit perfectly into the city’s movement to create a more vibrant downtown that would attract a younger population. “I wanted to create a place that young adults think of as part of their growing-up experience in Manchester, a place where people could have the best gaming experience possible—technology-free,” says Tufts.
He took his business plan to local investors, but few people knew what a board game café was and didn’t believe that people still played board games. He dug into his own personal savings for the initial investment, but when that ran out, he launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising $15,000 in two days and reaching more than $27,000 in just a few months.
Tufts, along with co-owners Japhet Stevens and David Casinghino (all three are from NH), opened Boards and Brews in April 2018 in Manchester, serving food and drinks and charging $5 per person to play for as many hours as the business is open. (The fee is waived during the day until 4 p.m.) Since opening, Boards and Brews has collected more than 15,000 game fees, attracting customers through word-of-mouth. It is projecting $500,000 in revenue by the end of their first year, and Tufts anticipates expanding and upgrading the kitchen in the near future.
Boards and Brews has more than 1,600 games, all of which are labeled and color-coded, indicating number of players, style of play, ease of learning, and more, which takes the worry out of finding the right game. “The library is one of the most organized game libraries in the world,” Tufts says. Boards and Brews hosts weekly Dungeons & Dragons on Mondays. It also has a private game room, dubbed The Queen Mary, that can be reserved for parties or corporate events.
Their menus have game-themed names such as the Connect Four, a 4-sectioned plate containing a choice of snack foods like Swedish Fish and Cheez-Its. They also offer a variety of local craft brews and seasonal drinks made with local ingredients.
The cafe offers a full menu and bar. Photo by Christine Carignan.
Boards and Brews has 12 employees and trains them to help customers select not only food and drinks, but also the perfect game, and then explain how to play it.
Tufts wants to eventually offer a summer board game day camp for children and youth at Boards and Brews. Tufts has more than 15 years of experience working as a camp counselor at Manchester’s YMCA, as a home-care provider for adults with disabilities, and as a coach with Special Olympics. He will use that experience to create a camp where kids would go to a local park to play sports, go rock climbing, or do other physical activity in the morning; then go back to Boards and Brews in the afternoon to play board games.
For more information, visit boardsandbrewsnh.com.
Written by Susan Lovas Orr, a student at the University of NH Manchester, as part of Business NH Magazine’s Young Reporters Project.