We have been eager to inform our fans about Snake and Lattes, a board game cafe located in Toronto because we love the concept so much! Game libraries are often in coffee shops, though maybe not often enough for our readers inclinations but these guys have create a game haven! We had the chance to hear from owner, Ben Castinie about the successes and challenges of running such a unique and groundbreaking (not to mention all the coffee grounds that go into running a cafe) business! If your summer travels take you to Toronto, make this a destination!
How did you come up with the idea to have a board game café?
I’m originally from Paris, and board games are everywhere in Europe. I discovered that this was not the case in North America, and while visiting Chicago, and stopping into several game stores, I realized that people weren’t being exposed to games in a way that was truly accessible. So we set out to create a gaming space that was friendly, knowledgeable and, above all, accessible to anyone and everyone.
Do you have a retail element too, do you sell the games or is it strictly a library?
We didn’t start with a retail element, but we fell into it. Our games library is the focus, but people who had been playing our games would ask where they could buy it afterwards. So, we looked into it and started carrying a few titles here and there (popular titles like Settlers of Catan, Taboo and Monopoly). It made sense as a part of the overall experience we were trying to provide, and it has become an integral part of the business.
Are there plans to expand in the future, maybe a US location, please?
People have been telling us since Day One that they would love for us to come to their town. And we would love to! Only time will tell if and when more Snakes & Lattes cafes will start popping up.
What are the challenges of running a café that additionally serves another large purpose?
In many ways, we are in uncharted waters. We offer something very different than other restaurants, bars and cafes, and our patrons come to us with a different set of wants and expectations. So, we have to create a lot of it as we go. However, in many other ways, we recognize that we have a lot to learn from traditional restaurants and bars about service. Negotiating the space where tradition and innovation meet has been our greatest challenge.
It looks like you have unique events and tournaments and then also tasty food and a fun staff, what is the most rewarding part of your business?
It’s difficult to point to any one thing. Whatever stresses may come up throughout the work day, our jobs are literally about fun and games. We get to share our hobby with hundreds of people every day, and people are having a great time. Through word of mouth, social media and print media, we see that people are playing games more than ever; that we’re part of that movement, providing a fun and accessible space for people to play, is extremely rewarding.
What Gamewright products do you have in circulation at Snakes and Lattes? Do you have any personal favorites?
We have a pretty good number of old and new Gamewright titles in the collection. For favourites, Forbidden Island ranks pretty high; it’s one of the go-to games for our Gurus. We’re hoping Tiki Topple comes back some day! We’ve been teaching it since we opened and there is a lot of love for it here. We have a lot of teachers and parents come through the café, so Rory’s Story Cubes (and Actions, and Voyages!) see a lot of play as well. Right now, we’re just waiting for Forbidden Desert to finally arrive!