This is one of those “If-you-build-it, they-will-come” stories. If you have the dream of a place where people can play together while noshing; and if you love board games and friendly competition and thought-provoking, skill-building escapism; and if you manage to generate the financial backing and the internal stamina to get through planning, building permits, licenses and procurement – they, the gamers and noshers, will show up.
This is the hope of Kathleen Miller, a board-game enthusiast who has taken all the above steps to bring the House Rules Café to Hudson. “I’ve been involved in opening businesses before, but this is the first time doing it from the ground up and doing it on my own,” she says. “And I’m going to be picky in hiring staff because, in a business like this, it’s all about how you interact with the customer. They need instructions on how to play a game or recommendations for games. I want people who have a ton of experience in customer service and food service. I can teach them how to play the games.”
Working for more than a decade in the food and wine industries, Miller wanted to go with a family-friendly, activity-based sort of business in Hudson. She launched a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier in the year, which was a great success; not only did she and husband Joel Holtzman raise enough to address all the basic aspects of starting this Columbia Street business, they garnered lots of enthusiasm for the new venture from the community, too.
The City of Hudson is like that. Denizens of Warren Street like to drink beer while they shop for books or peruse motorcycle gear with their morning brew. It’s only natural, Miller figures, that people will want to lounge in a comfy corner over a cup of tea or glass of cider while they play a round of Fluxx or Cards against Humanity or good old Monopoly. Her planned menu is also designed for comfort: hot and cold sandwiches, New England-style frappes and milkshakes, coffee from Thrive Farmers, loose-leaf tea from both Adagio Teas and Verdigris. With a license for alcohol, Miller will add artisan wine, beer and cider.
About the games: So far, at least 70 games will be available to choose from, and Miller is shooting for up to 250 titles. She says that the collection is being carefully curated to offer games for all ages, experience levels and preferences: everything from the best-known family games to strategy-heavy, multi-hour pop-culture epics.
Cafés dedicated to board games are a relatively new thing. Miller says that the first one she heard about is in Toronto: a place called Snakes and Lattes. “I wanted to figure out some way to integrate my lifelong career in food and wine with my love of all-things-nerdy and my desire to do something a little different, and yet not compete with all these amazing restaurants and bars in town.”
Board-game cafés generally charge for either a daily, weekly or monthly pass options for customers to access their catalogue of board games. At House Rules, there will be a $5 charge to pull a game off the library shelf, and customers can play all day if they’ve got the time. A kid corner will be stocked with books, games and non-battery toys where the younger set can hang out within view of their parents.
House Rules is set to open on April 29. Miller will serve coffee, tea and New York-style bagels for takeout breakfast; game time runs Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Miller invites you to put down technology and go analog for a while.
House Rules Café, 757 Columbia Street, Hudson; (518) 828-5938, http://houserulescafe.com.