Midtown coffee joints take notice: there’s a new game in town.
More accurately, there are almost 2,000 new games in town, but they’re conveniently in one spot.
Snakes and Lattes is Toronto’s first board game café.
A first venture for French immigrant couple Ben Castanie and Aurelia Peynet, the concept is simple. Patrons of the Bathurst and Bloor hangout pay $5 a head to sit down and play all the Yahtzee, Scrabble, Jenga or almost anything else they want. At the same time they can take in the venue’s food and drink offerings, be it a brownie, a latte (the most popular drink) or a beer.
Since opening in August, the spot has already established itself as a hit with the student crowd, as well as Annex area families looking for a refreshing alternative to TV. But the café has also been talked up on Twitter and its name can be caught in chatter as far away as the 905.
“We didn’t know what to expect before it opened… but (the response) has been amazing,” Castanie says. “I remember the first day.
We opened the store at 11 a.m. and as we were tearing off the renovation paper in the window, people were waiting to come in.”
Taking their inspiration from toy-lending libraries in Europe, the couple set out to create a social space where patrons could relax and have fun at the same time.
“We tried to create a place where people would love to hang out,” Castanie says. He adds they also wanted to create a space to contrast with prolific internet cafés where patrons tend to sit with eyes glued to laptop screens.
To populate the now-crowded game shelves, Castanie and Peynet scoured garage sales, Craigslist and Value Village. When their bargain-hunting failed to net popular classics or newer games, they shelled out cash to buy them new. After playing around with some long lists of words having to do with coffee and games, a friend finally suggested Snakes and Lattes, a quip the couple couldn’t have caught themselves.
“We don’t have (Snakes and Ladders) in France,” Castanie laughs.
He says the couple also gave careful consideration to their Annex location.
“Because we had a new concept, we thought it would be best to be where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic,” Castanie says. “We were ready to pay a bit more to have this kind of exposure.”
The thinking seems to have paid off. Castanie says the average stay for a customer is two to three hours and the café is full most nights, with an expected spike on the weekends. With around 60 seats, he says turnover is good as well.
Even while Snakes and Lattes grows in popularity, its owner is already planning ways to keep patrons interested. Tournaments and nights focusing on a single game are currently in the works.
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