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Games café owners change strategies during pandemic (5 photos)

North of Exile Games owner Jason Malott says board games are a great way for families to bond.

As small businesses experience economic losses during the current COVID-19 crisis, a Penetanguishene games café has shifted gears.

North of Exile Games has made adjustments to continue offering fun and games to the community in spite of the uncertainty facing everybody nowadays.

“We’ve had a long love of board games and playing socially,” said company founder Jason Malott, who runs the business with his wife Janis Freeman.

With a storefront on Main Street, the games business had become a busy spot for regular game nights and other special events. That changed, however, with the restrictions placed on businesses across the province.

“Ever since we first opened in 2017, we have been hosting regularly scheduled weekly events that entire families can enjoy participating in,” Malott said.

“Most of our business traditionally revolves around bringing people together, to socialize and have fun. Games are a great tool for bridging a generational gap."

As an example, the store regularly hosts Pokemon youth league events Saturday mornings that are reserved for kids between the ages of seven and 15 along with regular Magic: The Gathering tournaments that would attract players of all ages.

With the outbreak, however, those kinds of get-togethers are now verboten.

“But, as with all businesses that are determined to survive, we have adjusted with the current times, in order to continue providing a much needed source of fun for people who are now self-isolating,” Malott said.

"We had to pivot. We are fortunate that prior to the COVID-19 crisis ever beginning, we had already begun selling our board games and card games online and shipping them across Canada. We try to get games in people's hands. Some of our games start at around $14."

To learn more about the games café and check out its selection of games, click here.

Malott said there are two promotions now on with a large selection of games and products marked down as well as a 10-percent discount code (GETWELLSOON) available upon checkout. There’s also free starter decks available for the popular card game Magic: The Gathering to anyone who would like to learn the game during self-isolation.

“They can reach out to us and set up a time for a complimentary contactless pick-up,” he said. “We’ll give up to four complete decks to any families who request them, while supplies last. It’s a great game to enjoy passing the time together with.”

But Malott has also worked to expand the company’s reach through television with a program called ‘Game Night in the North’ where viewers can learn how a specific game is played in a light and entertaining way.

“It’s a fun and easy way to discover some great new games,” he said, noting the show that appears on Rogers TV is also available on Youtube (

Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Community Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country’s most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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