The Spot Check with The Bard and Baker Board Game Cafe

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Magic happens when classically-trained culinary skills fuse with a passion for storytelling and a deep love for the surrounding community. When the Bard meets the Baker, creativity sets up shop in a heartening establishment. This week's edition of the Spot Check rolled by Troy, New York's premiere board game cafe to hear songs of their triumphs - and the exciting tales behind their conception.

As the Capital District's first board game café, The Bard and Baker boasts an impressive library of over 600 titles for gamers to enjoy. For just $5.00 per person, you gain unlimited play with their extensive board game library - and access to their incredibly knowledgeable staff. B&B truly excels in encouraging their guests and their community to unplug and play in this increasingly technological age.

Our kind of game.
With a menu chalk-full of deliciously-inspired main quests and side quests to satiate your party's palette, there's also a welcome commitment to being a sustainable and eco-friendly operation at play. This is a spot where good times and team-building are rewards that speak for themselves. We had the pleasure of chatting with cafe owner Charlotte Guyton to unveil the story of how two entrepreneurs - with a passion for good food and gaming - were able to tap into their community and bring their dream to life. With this Spot Check, it's a legend to remember.


1) What's your name and where are you based?

Hello! My name is Charlotte Guyton and I own Bard & Baker, a board game cafe in downtown Troy, NY. Troy is home to the prominent engineering school, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), and is located 3 hours North of New York City, as well as 15 minutes from the state capital of New York, Albany.

2) What inspired you to open your establishment?

Growing up in a military family, we moved homes frequently, but the one constant was family game night, which happened almost like clockwork every week. We played a lot of the traditional Classic Americana games, but I always cherished those nights together. While I am passionate about games, my background is actually predominantly in the food and beverage industry. I am classically trained in hospitality, attending Paul Smiths College in the Adirondacks of NY, and have managed a multitude of dining establishments ranging from Forbes 5-star fine dining Relais and Chateaux properties, award winning fine dining restaurants, to casual cafes and bars.

When working in Troy, managing all front of house operations for a hospitality group (Clark House Hospitality) I met my now partner, Bryan Connor, who was the Pastry Sous Chef of the same organization. Bryan grew up with a deep passion for hobby gaming, getting involved in miniatures and D&D at a young age, and had started a blog called Lvl.1 Chef ( where he creates real life recipes of food from some of his favourite video games growing up. We instantly connected and knew we wanted to continue working together.

Troy has a vibrant dining and bar scene, but there wasn't much in the way of casual entertainment, despite being a college town. We were both enamoured by the idea of combining our love for board games, food, beverage and hospitality, and felt that we could really bring something special to to the Capital District. With my past experience running other small businesses throughout my career, I assumed full ownership of the company, while Bryan was brought on as the Head Chef, leading the entire food program for the cafe.

3) What inspired the name?

We wanted something with alliteration, that had a subtle nod to geek culture and D&D, which highlighted our passion for the food and beverage industry. 'Bard' stemmed from the classic playable fantasy archetype, as well as traveling song writer and story teller from medieval times, while 'Baker' is more, well, self explanatory. Bard & Baker became a fusion of our personalities and passions -- for hosting, entertaining, and feeding people -- we wanted to create a space that would be our 'home' that we could open to the world as a safe space and a place to reconnect through the world of games. Bard & Baker just fit, and we can't imagine our vision having any other name.

4) What is the biggest challenge you've faced?

Easily the biggest challenge I personally faced throughout the process was the construction period. I had opened businesses, run businesses, closed businesses and more for other people, but never had I been involved in the construction process, and I wasn't well versed in that world so I had to learn a lot along the way. Being a young female business owner, I found it very difficult to garner the respect and attention of these individuals, which was very frustrating at times.

 Since we've opened, the biggest challenge we've faced has been finding time throughout the day to get everything done. We have been so busy and our community has been incredibly supportive that we wish we had more hours in the day to do everything we want to do! It is a wonderful 'problem' to have and we are so grateful.

5) What makes your brand truly unique?

With both myself and Bryan having extensive backgrounds in the food and beverage/hospitality industries (20+ years combined) we strive to elevate the food and hospitality experience that's typically offered in other board game cafes. We work hard to not just hire individuals who are knowledgable on games, but who are hospitality-focused and empathetic. Our interview process is precise and rigorous as we feel strongly that you can teach someone how to learn and play board games, but you can't teach someone to care for people -- you either have that or you don't, and we work hard to hire individuals who live and breathe that in both their personal and professional lives.

On the edible end of things, Bryan makes all of the bread in house fresh daily for sandwiches, along with from-scratch pastries and food and beverage items focused highly on the nostalgia factor (pizza bagels, mac & cheese with a garlic cheez-it crust), video game themed food, boozy milkshakes, cocktails with popsicles and bubble tea -- we want items that make people smile when they see them. We are more tea focused than coffee focused of a cafe, so we work tea and bubble tea into a lot of our pastries, featured drinks and cocktails. Above all, we try to make everything we do 'fun' -- because if you can't have fun in a board game cafe, where can you?

Gotta drink 'em all.

6) What’s something new you have in the works right now? 

Nights and weekends are our busiest times of the week, so we are working on a corporate team building program that we can offer to local businesses throughout the area to drive foot traffic during the weekdays when we are less full. We have also been partnering with local schools, and organizations with adults and children living with mental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries to organize day trips to the cafe since board games are fantastic for fostering cognitive function and brain growth.

7) Fave game?

This is a tough one as I am always learning new games, so my 'new favorite' that I recommend to guests in store is constantly changing. However, I will say that I recently started Stuffed Fables and am absolutely enchanted by it. It's adorable and fun, and also a little nightmarish like Sid's creations in Toy Story. I just finished the first story and am looking forward to getting back together with friends to embark on the second one.

8) Most overrated game?

Also tough, as we tell our staff that their personal opinions on a certain game should never cloud their judgement on recommending the perfect title for the guest in front of them -- even if you don't care for a specific game, listen to your guest and what their interests are, as the game you do not care for might be the perfect fit for the person in front of you.

9) What game character would you be out of any?

Since I'm on a Stuffed Fables kick at the moment, out of all the playable characters, I identify most with Flops. Flops attacks any stressful situation with levity, humor, optimism, and positivity, which is my autopilot mode as well -- positivity solves more problems than pessimism does, after all! He also fights with ranged weapons, which I love.

10) Best alignment?

Chaotic Good -- though, Bryan recently played an evil campaign with a Lawful Evil character and I must say that it was HIGHLY entertaining and very interesting to watch.

11) Magic or melee?

Magic! There are infinite possibilities and creativity! I have always enjoyed being the 'wizard behind the curtain' in hospitality, overseeing the beautiful dance of service, carefully crafting the experience. Though, I must admit that I typically gravitate towards ranged characters and weapons when I play.

12) Old school or new school?

In the world of board games, one does not exist without the other, so we try to have a healthy mix of both. We organize our game library so that the old school nostalgic titles are facing the windows, and the more new school titles are further in -- so guests walking by can see something they recognize, which gets them excited and draws them in initially with the hopes that we can also entice them with some titles they have never heard before. 

13) Sci-Fi or Fantasy?

Can I have both? Yes please!

14) Most epic win?

Most epic win would have to be opening Bard & Baker after we lost a business plan competition just about a year prior. The panel of judges were not sold on the concept, despite us winning the crowd vote with over 1,200 votes from the community in the initial voting phase, and ended up giving the small business grant to someone else. We were a little disappointed, but fueled by the chance for a comeback, and went on to win a different, larger and more extensive, business plan competition 6 months later, opening Bard & Baker 4 months after that -- everyone loves a good underdog story!

15) In the battle for Middle-Earth where would you be?

Planning strategy behind the scenes, of course!

Much gratitude to Charlotte, Bryan, and everyone at the Bard & Baker for taking the time to tell your inspiring tale! We love what you're doing to better mental health, and are excited to see how the corporate team-building plans pan out. Pretty pumped to try some of those recipes from as well. Congrats on all of your achievements and contributions, and, as always, Happy Gaming!
The Spot Check with The Bard and Baker Board Game Cafe The Spot Check with The Bard and Baker Board Game Cafe Reviewed by JADE Gaming on 5/15/2019 08:16:00 am Rating: 5

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