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Into Board Games? The New Dice Dojo Lets You Play in Store and Drink Beer

By Josh McGhee | April 13, 2015 5:39am

SOUTH LOOP — When Dice Dojo held its grand opening for its second store, more than 100 people stopped by the South Loop location for a 20-hour binge of board games, pizza, friends and beer.

"It was really good," said Lauren Wiltgen, an employee of the store. "People come in to pull board games out, get to meet people from the area and have fun. It's always friendly people. Some came in groups and others came alone and would ask to join in on a game."

The North Side location, 5550 N. Broadway St., gained a following for its demo wall, which allows customers to come in, grab a game off the shelf and play with a friend much in the way you can a video game at Target or Best Buy. It's a helpful touch, since you won't find any run-of-the-mill board games like Monopoly or chess in stock.

The store's games "take those base concepts you learned as a kid and expand on it," Witgen said, as she pulled a game off the shelves that retails for around $60.

"I can't play this at my house, it's too small, but we can here. I can hang, order food from Papa John's around the corner and sit and play a game we'd never have the time or space for otherwise," she said.

The store's shelves are packed with popular games like Settlers of Catan, Terra Mystica and King of Tokyo. It also sells games based off of TV shows "Adventure Time" and "Sons of Anarchy."

While the shop does attract fans of Magic the Gathering, the store also has become a popular meet-up place for "miniature gaming," which incorporates miniature figurines into the board game, Wiltgen said.

The South Loop shop at 2134 S. Michigan Ave., the former home of Darya's Naturals Hair Boutique, has seating for just short of 30 people.

It was packed for a recent Board Game Night, one of its daily events. That night, none of the customers elected to bring beer, which "we can't sell but you're definitely free to bring in," co-owner Lex Dunning said.

Bill Derocha, of Hyde Park, elected to grab a pizza from Papa John's to enjoy on his first visit. The 27-year-old chatted with new friends and old friends with his arm in a sling.

"I can't play sports, so I figured I might as well come out and play a board game," said Derocha, adding he's not an avid board gamer but definitely enjoys them and had fun at game night.

"I play when I have a free evening. Others may play more than me, but it's a nice way to spend an evening and better than playing video games alone. I think that's why people come, to play and have a good time. Obviously, [they've] got a lot of interest already, since [they've] just opened and it's a full house," Derocha said.

One of the first things Derocha noted was the location: "it's pretty cool. There's no place in the South Loop like this."

Wiltgen and co-owner JP Nery said they picked the location because of its proximity to McCormick Place, where a lot of their out-of-town visitors come for conventions.

"It's really a neat location. The South Loop is going to be an up-and-coming neighborhood. There's a lot of good things going on there and I wanted to get in there now," said Nery, who's co-owned the North Side location for six years.

The location is also close to a lot of college students, one of the business' key customer bases, said Wiltgen, noting the South Loop location — unlike the North Side location — sells comic books from Alleycat Comics in Andersonville.

"It's really close to four different campuses, which is helpful for us. A lot of our customers would say they wish they could come more often when they're in town for conventions," Wiltgen said.

"When customers saw the new location on Google they asked if it was a joke. We're trying to tell people, 'No, we're here now, too,'" Wiltgen said.

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