Sunday, October 18, 2020

Gather & Game throws the dice during COVID

 By Jacob Fries

It’s plain to see that the COVID-19 pandemic is having an adverse effect on small businesses across the country. Some have closed, and many others have had to significantly alter how they conduct business in order to function in a pandemic. Grant Street’s board game store and cafe, Gather & Game, is one such business that has had to significantly alter how business works during the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, Gather & Game, 205 Grant St., offered up coffee in the store, as well as rentable tables from which customers would be able to play board games. However, since the pandemic has spread, the owners, Joe and Jeannene Petri, had to scale back their business to exclusively being a board game store.

Photo courtesy of Gather & Game 

         “In-store play was kind of a key driver for traffic,” Joe Petri, said. “And not even just traffic. We had table fees, and sold drinks, and all that revenue is gone indefinitely at this point.”

            The Petris owned their game store and a used bookstore, West Side Stories, which were across the street from one another. However, since the pandemic, they had decided to close West Side Stories and move Gather & Game across the street to take its place.

            The Petris reopened their game store at its new location in mid-September. While their situation hasn’t improved to the degree it was before the initial outbreak, Joe Petri feels that their situation has somewhat stabilized.

            “Like everybody else we’ve taken a real hit. It feels like now it’s starting to get back on course a little bit, but we’re still nowhere near where we were pre-pandemic,” Petri said.

            Much like many other small business owners, the Petris have had to diversify how they could interact with customers in order to keep their store functioning during the pandemic. This was largely achieved by prioritizing online sales from their website, as well as encouraging curbside deliveries and pickup.

             Another difficulty that Gather & Game has needed to face was that the in-store interaction that was a staple of the store would need to be put on indefinite hold.

            “So much of it was about in-store play. It’s kind of embedded in our name. This is a place where we all come to gather and play games,” Petri said.  

            In spite of those difficulties, Petri has tried to keep Gather & Game’s community together on social media through board game tutorials. He also mentioned wanting to promote some of the new business that will be opening in the neighborhood as well.

            Despite the unusual circumstances, Petri feels confident that Gather & Game can still play a role in on the West Side.

“I feel that we’ve always been neighborhood focused,” Petri said. “We chose the West Side because it’s our home.”