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The Self-Made Man: Gordon Lugauer

If there’s one thing that should be dead and buried by now, it’s board games. Think about all the dynamic, technologically-superior stuff competing for everyone’s very limited free time. It’s crazy to think that board games are still around, much less prospering.

gordon1Of course, Gordon Lugauer doesn’t think the current popularity of board games is all that crazy. He’s loved them since he was a kid, so it was only natural for him to start a brick-and-mortar store—called The Board Game Barrister—dedicated to them, which he did in 2005. Because of this, and the fact that he’s still around 9 years later, he’s this week’s Self Made Man.

Lugauer lives in Milwaukee, and was a board game enthusiast from the very beginning; his family played them during holidays as a tradition of sorts. Yes, they actually had family game nights. As a cynical, joyless East Coaster, I’m at once confused as to why families would actually want to spend time together and jealous that they did.

Anyway, Lugauer ended up starting a computer consulting firm, but felt isolated in his home office, where he spent most of his time tossing emails around and not directly interacting with people.

Also, the dot-com bust left him understandably disillusioned with computer consulting, so he went to law school. That turned out to be insanely stressful and time-consuming, although he did get a wife out of it so it wasn’t a total waste.

Ordinarily, all that still shouldn’t be enough to convince someone that going into retail—where one is confronted by the worst people imaginable on a daily and sometimes hourly basis—was a necessary career change, but Lugauer wanted to try his hand at something he had a personal interest in that met his other needs, namely social interaction and not being a stressed-out wreck all the time.

That something turned out to be The Board Game Barrister, which he started with a handful of investors and has kept going to this very day. His store carries thousands of different games and other activities, and the store’s board game nights are a big hit with twentysomethings, which he hadn’t expected.

Lugauer’s customer base is his biggest accomplishment, I think, in that they’re very loyal. One of them has even invested in the store, and when he lost one of his store’s mall locations because they wanted to put a temporary Victoria’s Secret store in its place, his customers not only contacted him, but the local media as well.

Perhaps he wasn’t the only one who needed more communal experiences. Board games are popular because they’re a relatively affordable social activity, and not only does Gordon Lugauer provide those, but he provides public space for them as well. Good for him.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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