Feb 21, 2024 - Business

The Rook Room looks to expand into permanent space

A woman holding cards playing Catan

The Rook Room hosts a Catan tournament. Photo: Courtesy of The Rook Room

Pop-up board game business The Rook Room is preparing to put down more permanent roots.

Flashback: Co-owners Annelise Tarnowski and Tony Tandeski both served on Drake's alumni board and bonded over their love of table-top games and Dungeons & Dragons maps.

  • Those conversations led to wanting a local "nerd" space where people could hang out and play games without pressure to buy drinks or spend money.
  • They created The Rook Room and held their first pop-up, "Clue and Cupcakes" at Creme in 2019, which ended up being a standing-room only event.

Driving the news: After hosting popular pop-ups across the metro, Tarnowski and Tandeski are now taking the next steps to establish their business by searching for a permanent gaming and cafe space.

  • Tarnowski recently left her previous full-time job to focus on The Rook Room.

The intrigue: They offer every style of game, ranging from entry-level boards like Monopoly, to "gateway" games like Catan.

  • There's also jigsaw puzzle events and deeper strategy role-playing games that can take hours to play.

Of note: The Rook Room hosts a Catan tournament this weekend through "Gamicon," a gaming convention in Cedar Rapids.

  • As an official Catan tournament, the winner gets an invitation to the national tournament in Minneapolis. It's one of the few official tournaments offered in Iowa.

The bottom line: The goal of The Rook Room is to create inclusive and accessible spaces for everyone, including LGBTQ people and those with disabilities.

  • "If you're to drill down our 'why,' it's to create community," Tandeski says.
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