Our renovations have finally finished! What all changed? Let's take a look into the past....
It worries me how few pictures I have of the original café! I had to dig fairly deep to find some of these, but they do a good job of showing how the café looked when it first opened (or close to). These three were all taken at drastically different times but give a decent picture of the original layout.
Looking in from the front door.
A view into the counter area as well as the 'nook' area behind the espresso machine.
Looking towards the weird corner area beside the front door.
This layout came about primarily because of the large amount of used equipment I initially purchased to get the store set up. The equipment included a series of stainless steel counters on wheels that had a very limited number of configurations. This (coupled with that gosh-darn pole behind me in the third picture) meant that we had to take up a much larger area than needed. It also created an awkward area at the front where nothing really fit properly (where the pop cooler ended up).
The initial construction was also done very...badly. I made the massive mistake of using the same contractor my landlord wanted for his portion of the renovations. There were endless problems discovered soon after he finished, which took years to get around to fixing. He vanished and did not pay his tradesmen, leaving people hounding me for money. I haven't seen him since!
There were all kinds of minor issues with this setup that bugged me over the ~6.5 years it was like this but the lengthy initial COVID shutdown provided the perfect time to do a partial renovation and fix a lot of these problems.
Lets take a look at the changes from 2020!
These photos were taken just before the most recent renovations started January 2022.
The front counter was the main focus for this renovation. There were several amenities from the downtown store that the original location on 75th street was always missing; draft beer, fountain pop and ice! How did I ever open a café without an ice machine?!
The entire front counter was essentially shrunk and shoved into the wasted space beside the front door. This does mean that we have that annoying pole a bit more in our way but it means a lot less wasted energy darting back and forth across such a wide space. The pole does provide a good reference point for just how much the counter moved/changed though, just compare the third picture to the one above!
This reno was actually only half of what I thought really needed to be changed. This first part addressed the most pressing issues behind the counter and created some much needed space, but the 'customer' side of the café remained largely unchanged. I heard loud and clear that many customers really missed the privacy of the rooms at the downtown store, as well as the extremely worn out couches of the original. So why not combine the best of both worlds?
New outer wall lights!
The track lights have been a bit of a hassle the last few years as more of their housings failed over time (no on likes a flickering light!) so switching them out of energy efficient pot lights just made sense.
Sound dampening ceiling tiles!
Every tile in the main area has been replaced with high quality sound dampening tiles.
8 years is quite a time to go without a fresh coat of paint and this felt like to perfect time to pull down all the shelves and do the job right. Thinner black baseboards also tidy up the look and give an extra inch or so of space around the entire store.
I had dozens of drawings and ideas for exactly how to lay out this space from just a simple bench along the wall all the way up to sliding panels to create actual rooms! This double horse shoe plus bench felt like the right way to go as it also gave space for two banks of shelves to expand the game library even further. There has never been more space in the store.
Each side can easily seat 8 people (10-12 if you really want to squish), the tables are 6 feet long for all kinds of larger games plus food/drink and the bench has power outlets with usb charging for laptops and other devices.
Part of the decision to leave these more open comes from the heating and accessibility issues from the private rooms downtown. There is ample lighting and air circulation to keep things comfortable and wheelchairs will have no issue pulling up to the open ends. This also makes it easier for staff to check in for food and drink orders without the intrusiveness of busting through the door in the middle of important dungeon master oration.
More game shelves!
By using the back of the booths for more shelves, the store has gained space for another ~144 full sized games while also giving a bit more wiggle room throughout. It will take a while for enough new games to come out to fill that so there is lots of room for a proper game return spot and supply drawers.
Lots of other little things!
Fresh bathroom tiles and lights, coat hooks, a new cork board, minor floor repairs, more storage, and some behind the counter fixes just make me feel so much better about the whole place.
It is going to take a while to get the café filled up with customers again but I am quite confident the store will be ready for it when it happens.