Kevin ’09 and Ryn Grant ’10: Opening the North Shore’s New Haunt

This article was first published in the spring 2018 issue of STILLPOINT magazine

At The Castle, the North Shore’s very own board game and trivia night café in Beverly, MA, you’ll likely find yourself doing things you never thought possible— like giving your friends some bad tattoos, traveling back in time to solve a mystery, or killing off your family members through a series of unfortunate events Lemony-Snicket-style.

The Castle is the brainchild of Kevin ’09 and Ryn (Brunell) ’10 Grant. As Gordon students, they were dismayed by the lack of off-campus spots where they could have fun without overstaying their welcome. So, four to five years after graduating, they created one.

“The concept was to create a space where people could come and just hang out,” Kevin says. Students, couples, friends and families could gather to “build community and build friendships” by “pulling people from their screens in their homes to go out and do something communal. The board games were kind of added onto that.”

Before 2010, board game cafés were few and far between, which gave the Grants a niche and a hitch. The market was there, but as first-time business owners, they didn’t have the advantage of learning from peer establishments.

“Neither of us have even worked in a restaurant before,” Ryn explains, “so our experience is minimal. And then board game cafés, in general, are pretty rare so we can’t even run over to the next town to see what another board game café is doing.”

Not only that, but The Castle—like Milton Bradley’s game of Life—meets people at every stage of life, meaning their niche market actually involves a wide range of palates and preferences. Customers are young children, middle and high schoolers, twenty-somethings, families and “older couples who want to have a date night,” Kevin says. But the Grants have the intentionality, humor and people skills to pull it off.

In the two years since The Castle opened, they’ve created a safe space and a culture of fun through improv comedy nights, photo scavenger hunts, trivia nights on everything from Pixar movies to The Lord of the Rings, gaming marathons to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and Game Makers Nights, which invite local game makers to test, teach and launch their own board games.

Board game cafés may be new to the area, but game-making certainly isn’t. In 1887, Parker Brothers—the company that created Monopoly, Clue, Risk, Sorry! and Trivial Pursuit—opened their first storefront in Salem, MA, where the Hawthorne Hotel now stands. Now many of their board games can be found among nearly 700 others at The Castle.

“The intention was to be a community center and place where people can feel at home,” Ryn says. “I feel like we are much more invested in the town as a whole, rather than just through our business . . . our plan is to be here forever.”