By Beza Getachew
Seated on leather cushioned chairs, a group of five people in their twenties lean over a board game placed on top of a black granite coffee table. One of the players leaps up in celebration.
“I win. I win. I win!”
Roll Play Cafe, located right beside the World’s Biggest Bookstore at 10A Edward St., is the newest downtown board game joint.
Upon entering, a blue staircase leads up to the second floor café. A hand-painted mural depicting characters from popular board games, including Monopoly’s mascot Rich Uncle Pennybags, covers the wall.
Inside, black booths line large windows overlooking Edward Street.
Shelving units hold the library of 300 board games, all which were hand-picked by owners Sherry Luo, 27, and Shan Paul Ho, 26. The selection includes a range of classics, like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots and newer releases, like The Walking Dead board game.
Luo, who graduated from Ryerson’s nursing program in 2009, said she got the idea of opening a board game café after hearing they were popular overseas.
“We knew about board game cafés in Asia and when we saw it in Canada we wanted to check it out, but the wait lines were just so long,” said Luo.
Tired of waiting to get into the city’s most popular board game café, Snakes and Lattes, Luo and Ho decided they would open up a café of their own.
Having gone to Ryerson, Luo knew this neighbourhood would be perfect to develop their first business. But finding a location wasn’t easy. Eight months dragged by until finally, in February 2013, they signed a deal and began renovating the space.
“We want to let other people enjoy and play in an atmosphere where you don’t have to wait that long,” said Luo.
Roll Play Cafe has no cover charge. The rules are that once you come in and order something, you are free to stay for up to two hours. After that, you can either pay $3 per hour to continue playing or order something else off the menu.
Luo’s partner, Ho, said their attention to the menu is what sets them apart from other board game cafés. They have a renowned chef on staff and Ho said their barista is a world champion.
Although this is the couple’s first entrepreneurial endeavor, they’re no strangers to the food industry. Both of their parents owned restaurant businesses, so Luo and Ho said that being able to follow in their footsteps was a satisfying feeling.
“If (people) want a quality place to sit, dine and have fun, I hope they choose this place,” Ho said.