Boardwalk Board Game Lounge takes new school approach to old school fun
Once a year, Peterborough runs a Win This Space contest where entrepreneurs pitch their best ideas in hopes of winning a storefront location in the city's downtown core for 12 months rent-free. Dylan Reinhart and his brother Connor jumped right on it, submitting their idea for the Boardwalk Board Game Lounge and being selected as one of ten finalists.
“We had to write a business plan, we had to do a year's worth of financial projections, we toured a bunch of spaces and met with different landlords and realtors, we did a marketing workshop,” says Reinhart. “It was a really cool whirlwind of two months that ended with us making a pitch to a panel.”
They won – well, not the contest, they lost that, but they did win by virtue of pulling together a concrete idea for a business that two months prior didn’t even exist. “We were ready to open.”
They started with pop-ups, running board game nights throughout the city to get a feel for Peterborough’s interest in gaming. After two years of building an organic following using social media and word-of-mouth marketing, Boardwalk Board Game Lounge expanded to a brick and mortar location.
They’d only been open a month or two when the Downtown Peterborough BIA reached out to see if Reinhart was interested in hosting the launch of Digital Main Street out of Boardwalk Board Game Lounge. Reinhart admits he didn’t know much about the program at the time. The Digital Main Street program leverages grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario and the Ontario BIA Association to help main street businesses across Ontario strengthen their digital and online capabilities.
“The more we heard about it, the more it made sense for us to do,” says Reinhart. “We made sure that we got onto the list of businesses to be involved in the program before they left the building.”
Connor’s a chef by trade and Reinhart spent a decade working as an outdoor educator in Haliburton. Unsurprisingly, they’re also really into board games. “When it comes to customer experience, the teaching of the games, and the food, we’re pretty well covered,” says Reinhart. “But as we venture into anything else around the business, outside of our comfort zone, (we've) taken every opportunity to attend as many workshops as possible.”
Between Digital Main Street’s online learning videos and meeting with the local Digital Service Squad, Reinhart was able to pull together a list of opportunities to grow their digital presence. “It's given us a roadmap for how we can continue to develop and strengthen our digital offerings.”
Reinhart says one of the key takeaways from the program is how they could implement e-commerce to sell games “as an extension of what we're we're doing here.” It’s forward-looking especially given that the Boardwalk Board Game Lounge has only just started delving into retail out of the cafe.
All in, Digital Main Street has given Reinhart a different perspective. “A lot of what we hear from people, from our customers coming through, is that they love the idea that it's a place to disconnect a little bit from how intertwined our life is with technology,” he says. “So it was a fun exercise to be exploring how we could leverage technology to support our low-tech business.”
Written by Andrew Seale
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, and Yellow Pages.
This case study was completed during a prior expansion of DMS in partnership with the Province of Ontario and Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
In June 2020, a $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario and an additional $7.45 million from the Government of Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19.