The Gathering Place – where board games, beer and bards come together – celebrated its soft opening on Friday.
Located on the second floor of 157 E. Rosemary St., the bar and game store is located above Buena Vibra’s Caribbean Restaurant and Bar.
The store is co-owned by Joshua Goodsell, who has worked as a chef for over a decade and sells cards from the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game over the past three years.
Goodsell transitioned to selling trading cards full-time after the restaurant where he worked closed at the start of the pandemic.
“At the end of that year, it was pretty obvious to me that it could become a full-time job,” he said.
Goodsell’s success in selling cards led him and his business partner, Don Tiver, to consider opening a physical store. He said there weren’t many games in the Chapel Hill area, and with UNC located close to the locality, it made sense to open a store.
“We just wanted something for the people who don’t really fit into that crowd — the nerds, the misfits, and the gamers,” Goodsell said.
Matt Gladdek, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said the city needs a social arcade like The Gathering Place.
“Chapel Hill definitely has a little nerdy side to it and likes things that way,” Gladdek said. “It seemed like a perfect fit.”
Goodsell said one of the main appeals of opening a storefront is being able to sell special products that aren’t available online. For example, the creators of the card game Flesh and Blood only offer first-edition boxes in physical stores.
He said the space accommodates both casual gamers and serious gamers.
“We had people playing Scrabble and Monopoly and stuff like that, if you want a different vibe than the rest of the bars in downtown Chapel Hill,” he said.
The Gathering Place has a weekly games program, including a board game night and Magic: The Gathering tournaments on Wednesdays, Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop role-playing games on Thursdays, and Flesh and Blood on Saturday mornings.
Mark Drewery, president and founder of Magic: The Gathering at UNC-Chapel Hill, said The Gathering Place is a perfect place for the club to meet.
“As a club we can go to the store and play against each other,” he said. “We play against each other, but we’re in this cool store, doing what we love.”
The club usually meets at 6 p.m. on Thursdays at Hamilton Hall, but has started holding additional meetings at The Gathering Place.
The store also offers a full bar with a wide selection of local alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks on tap. Their draft selection includes coffee from Gray Squirrel Coffee Co. and Carrboro Coffee Roasters, kombucha from Boro Beverage and sake, wine, beer, seltzer water and cider.
“It’s an all-ages facility,” Goodsell said. “So parents can drop their kids off for a Pokémon tournament, sit at the bar, and have a drink.”
Gladdek said it’s important to have businesses like The Gathering Place to ensure all types of people have the space to feel at home in public.
“I think the most important thing is that it’s going to provide a different kind of space for someone who might not have found their place in Chapel Hill before,” he said. “It doesn’t really compete with anything else here, and I think that’s really important.”
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