FoPo’s Red Castle Games celebrates five years

Find out what kind of game you’ll never find at Red Castle Games – now a fixture in the Foster-Powell neighborhood …

The owners of Red Castle Games turned this once-run-down retail space into what has become the Mecca in Portland for board game enthusiasts.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The mood was definitely celebratory at Red Castle Games in early March, as this independent store, dedicated to cerebral pastimes, celebrated its fifth anniversary.

Among the many shelves, stacked to the ceiling with merchandise, not one video game was evident.

All kinds of games are available in this store – except electronic, software-based games.

“We offer board games, role playing games – in fact, any kind of game that is not electronic,” proprietor Matthew Mi?eti? patiently explained.

“Here you can find games where you sit at a real table, with real people, and play together, Mi?eti? told East Portland News. “We have tiny games, quick games, and epic games that take 10 or 12 hours to complete. You’ll find games of strategy and games of chance.”

Games that involve bluffing are popular right now, Mi?eti? said. “Interestingly, some of the more popular new styles of games are based on cooperation. These games require all of the players to work together to win, or they all lose.”

Red Castle’s Project Manager Natalie Caulkins watches as owner Matthew Mi?eti? – who is also President of the Foster Area Business Association – cuts the store’s anniversary cake.

Mi?eti? said his family emigrated from Yugoslavia, now known as Croatia. “Before starting the store with a partner, I marketed web design. My cousins in Croatia wrote the code. But, when the economy fizzled, my business dried up.”

So, about five years ago Mi?eti? and a friend, who also liked board games, decided to open a game store on SE Foster Road. “We noticed the commercial rent was very affordable here. We thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ It’s gone much better than I thought it would.”

After buying out his partner about a year ago, Mi?eti? became the sole proprietor of Red Castle Games.

Giant-sized board-game pieces delight, rather than scare, Willow and Scarlette Sanders.

“I enjoy the freedom of owning and operating a business,” Mi?eti? commented. “I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but this business gives me the freedom to take time off. When I’m here, I’m always working, but it’s really nice to be able to take time off and take a road trip, for example! Just phenomenal.

“The reason I can do that is that we have very good employees,” Mi?eti? said. “We treat our employees well. We can’t pay huge salaries. But, if I can help my employers enjoy life, and enjoy coming to work, it’s a good situation for us all.”

The store is set up in a unique way, for a retail establishment. Almost half of the square footage is open, game-playing space. People can borrow the games to play, from the store’s library, or bring in their own games to play.

Nate James and Matt Alspach spend a Saturday afternoon playing Magic: The Gathering in the Red Castle Games lounge.

“Surprisingly, providing free play space has turned out to be a sound strategic business model,” Mi?eti? commented. “People often purchase snacks and beverages; and many times, they purchase a game they’ve played here to take home. We also rent board games. All of this keeps people coming back.”

After five years of being a “bricks-and-mortar” retailer, Mi?eti? announced they are in the process of rolling out a website for selling games online. “So far it is successful. And it’s good to have our point-of-sale system integrated with the Internet site, so customers can track which games they’ve purchased in the past.”

Every day of the week, the store hosts clubs and enthusiast groups, or holds game tournaments.

Then it was time to cut the celebratory cake. Customers were delighted to have a slice on their way to the game tables to continue game playing with their friends.

Red Castle Games is located at 6406 SE Foster Road, or visit them online: CLICK HERE.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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