The first week of April 2020 I still thought the restrictions and virus were something that would go away in a few weeks.
I was spending a bunch of my time eBaying random items, figuring out a new webstore, dealing with online orders and trying to cut off anything bleeding money from my bank account.
Later that week, I really sat down and started to realize the pandemic was going to be lasting for quite some time. The board game cafe business as we knew it (people gathering face to face to play games and touching the same objects) might not even be viable anymore. This early on there was not a lot of information about financial help and no one knew how long they could pay rent. I started to look at options and expenses. The biggest expense was the rent for the 124 Street store.
I spoke with the landlord who seemed to already know what was coming and we worked together to end the store's lease. With all sales happening online, it made sense to only have one store. In order for 124 Street to be viable, the store had to be fully occupied, which was no longer an option due to social distancing measures. This reiterated that the downtown location would have to close.
With that in mind, I tearfully signed a termination of lease agreement on April 6 and then let the staff know that the downtown store was closing for good. This was a very sad day but even looking back on it now, it really was the right thing to do. Given everything I know now about government loans and grants, competitors closing, and more, it would have been incredibly risky to try and stick it out. It may even have taken the 75 Street store down by the end of all this and that would have been apocalyptically bad!
With the decision made, a chain reaction of a whole bunch of questions and things to do began.
What can be taken back to 75Street? How the heck does it get moved there? Where will it all fit? What do I do with two board game collections? How do I change everything on the Internet to point to just one store? And on and on!
It turns out that a full store plus storage room can hold a crazy amount of stuff! It took four trips of a 26-foot U-Haul plus who knows how many little car and SUV trips to take everything from 124 to 75 Street. All the major items moved on April 14 and all that was left was cleaning up the chaos. It felt pretty good to get everything in one place.
After many marketplace and kijiji posts, I started to unload a bunch of shelves, tables, chairs, and equipment. Things were clearing out a bit but there was still the problem of the duplicate board game collection. I didn’t want to make individual online items for them all as that would take forever, nor could I (at this point) have people in the store. One idea that occured to me was to hold an outdoor garage type sale (weather permitting). However, I liked the simplicity of someone just taking all of the duplicate games. I created a Facebook post to see if anyone would be interested and quickly received several messages from people that were interested. I still didn’t know what to value it all at but after some back and forth with an anonymous someone, we worked out a deal and all that was left to transport them. It took 4 full SUV loads but it was yet another big item dealt with.
During this time I also started selling beer through the website and Alley Kat Brewery worked to help promote it! I want to take a moment to thank Alley Kat Brewery, they have been excellent to the Cafe over the years from organizing Keg nights to providing glassware.
I was still doing personal deliveries of games and beer across Edmonton and area to some very appreciative people but I was getting requests for food as well. So in the experimental COVID age, I had a friend to start cooking in the cafe again and we added food to our delivery menu. Everyone really needed some of that ‘famous’ Table Top Cafe carrot cake!