Minotaur: more than a minefield of games

Life can sometimes take us through wonderfully divergent paths before revealing our true passion: the co-owners of the Princess Street game store worked in archeology and catering before finally settling on the business of games.

I sat down with one of the co-owners of Minotaur, Justine Scala, to learn about the way in which board games, even with all our online games, can be more than business and pleasure, but also, a lifestyle.

“[The other co-owner, Michael White] is one of my best friends – I’ve known him for 25 years,” she said.

From monster and robot-themed art shows, Minotaur branches out to showcase the work of local artists. It boasts a reputation for being a supportive network and more than simply a niche store.

How long have you owned the store?
Eight and a half years – a little more than that actually, we opened in 2005. I was living in Toronto and working in archeology [before opening Minotaur], and when we moved to Kingston, I decided before I opened up a store myself, I would work in retail in Kingston for a [few years]… to get to know the community.

Do you or Michael keep up with your past career interests still?
To an extent … Even though I was an archeologist for 10 years, I had put myself through school doing retail and Michael, before he was a caterer, had worked in a warehouse so he really knew the back end of things and I knew the front end of retail. And so, it has been an excellent partnership.

What would you say sets your store apart from other stores on Princess St. or in Kingston?
I think we’re fairly unique even if you look outside of Kingston … The thing that makes Minotaur more than a game store … or a hobby shop is the fact that we focus on anything that people can be actively engaged with … We do things like games and puzzles and crafting supplies – stuff you have to interact with.

Where are your games sourced?
We have over a 100 suppliers … we occasionally go to trade shows. We do a lot of online research. And when I’m traveling, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting things as well.

In the past, have you featured work by Queen’s students?
Certainly, we’ve had art students show work here … [during] our art shows. I know there are people of college age who tend to sell stuff here that are extremely artistic. My focus is on what their art is rather than their educational background.

Why did you decide to incorporate them into your store? How often are the art shows?
When we opened [the store], the idea was always to have art shows. Usually we do about four a year. We pick a new theme and invite artists in the community to come in with pieces that fit that theme. So sometimes they’re interpretive and sometimes … they’re super literal … The group shows [which have been going on for about four years] have been really popular.

How did you get the idea to host game nights?
It was always … our concept to have a space where people could play games. Within a month of being open, we realized that we just weren’t going to be able to accommodate the number of people who wanted to play games so we started having more formal game nights.

Which age group would you say attends the game nights?
The vast majority of people are college-aged … The bulk of people who come, I would say, are between 18 and 35.

How are the tournaments and competitions?
We invented, and it’s now become a Canadian wide thing, the mixed board game tournament – it’s called the Great Canadian Board Game Blitz (GCBGB) now, but it started off as a tournament in our store.

What do you love best about the store?
The number one thing for me is the community engagement. That’s what keeps me going … I love the fact that I get to meet interesting people. Any way we can connect with the community, I think, is just really cool and I wouldn’t be able to do that as easily if I was working in an office.

For more information about Minotaur, please visit: http://www.minotaurgifts.com

Minotaur Games and Gifts is located at 165 Princess Street. They also host game nights twice a week, every Thursday and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

This article has been updated to reflect the following correction: The co-owner of Minotaur is named Michael White, not Michael Green. Incorrect information previously appeared. The Journal regrets the error.

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