Meet Your Good Neighbor Front Porch Series: I’m Board! Games & Family Fun
Many of the board games you’ll find on the shelves in I’m Board! Games & Family Fun in Middleton are meant to be played for a long time. These are games that evolve as they are played — they tell a story, and they just might help the player make some friends.
Bryan Winter, owner of I’m Board!, has been playing the game a long time.
Winter first worked in a game store as a college student in Ann Arbor, Mich. He then became a product manager for a leading distributor of comic books, trading cards and games. Later, Winter worked as a freelance game designer, then in marketing for 15 years, and finally, he moved his playing piece back to the first square.
“I decided to go back to what I love — selling games,” Winter said. “I spent a year putting together a business plan, obtaining the funding and here we are.”
Winter’s passion and knowledge of the game industry came together in I’m Board! and the store has flourished. Winter opened his flagship Middleton store nine years ago; he opened a second location in Sun Prairie two years ago.
Winter’s store doesn’t really compete with big online retailers — it’s playing its own game, so to speak.
“The Internet will always have a better selection and price,” Winter explains. “But we offer so much more in our community and with our event place and our knowledge and our willingness to share that knowledge.”
Winter said his analog board games fill a need created by the digital world.
“As the world has become more and more digital, it’s become easier to self-isolate” he said. “People are looking for ways to get out and socialize and games are a great way to do that. Not everyone likes to go out to the bar. You can still be silly and social, or you can be thinking and strategic, they can be whatever they want … playing a board game is a great sort of catalyst to bring all of that together.”
The store has an expansive gaming area that in non-pandemic times is a busy place. Winter said that on a slow weekend night, there might have been a dozen people playing games. On a busy weekend, when the store was sponsoring a game tournament, 250 people would have visited the game tables.
While the game tables are temporarily closed, the store is serving customers through its web portal, via a walk-in business, and with curbside pick-up and delivery service. Winter said the games provide a good outlet for people who are spending more time at home these days.
“It’s really been a very good way for people to spend their time,” he said. “They’ve watched everything on Netflix and they need something else to do.”
Winter said his primary customer base includes people in their 20s up to people in their 50s, although the store has customers of all ages, including kids. People who are interested in purchasing a game but don’t know where to start (the store has 2,000 titles) can chat with Winter’s staff by phone or in person. He said his staff is incredibly knowledgeable and very good at helping customers find the perfect game.
For the moment, the store’s gaming area is being used as temporary warehouse space. Winter said that while the store is fairing financially better than many other businesses, he misses seeing all the regular friendly faces and he’s looking to the day when they can return to his game tables.
Ultimately, games are about players and interaction and Winter can’t provide a simple answer when asked about his favorite game title — he said his favorite depends on who he is playing with.
He’s just happy to be in the game.
About I’m Board! Games & Family Fun
6917 University Avenue, Middleton, WI 53562
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.