Arts & Entertainment, Lakeshore, and Small Business & Startups

Owner marks one year of board game deliveries

Lakeshore Game Night takes page from movie rental and pizza delivery services.

March 15, 2019
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Jared Leatzow offers more than 60 games that are set at different price points, mostly by difficulty level, and customers can either rent games individually or in bundles, such as a standard package of four games for $15. Courtesy Lakeshore Games Night

Those who came of age in the 1990s recall the hallmarks of many a Friday night: delivery pizza and VHS movie rentals. Jared Leatzow is channeling those days with his new board game delivery company, Lakeshore Game Night.

Leatzow runs the door-to-door tabletop game delivery service out of his Montague home. He transports games to residents of Muskegon County, as well as parts of Oceana and Ottawa counties, so families and friend groups can have a night in without breaking the bank.

Prospective customers first check out his game selection at lakeshoregamenight.wordpress.com and then call or text their order to his business line, (989) 941-6732, and he responds to arrange a drop-off time and place. Leatzow also is willing to help people select games if they don’t know what to pick.

Besides owning the game delivery business, Leatzow is a full-time reporter for the White Lake Beacon in White Lake, which is part of Ludington-based Shoreline Media Group.

A Flint native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Central Michigan University in 2010. While there, he began playing board games that were just a bit more complex than the Monopoly and Clue sessions of his childhood.

After a few reporting jobs on the state’s east side, Leatzow was hired for his current position in 2013. His new roommate introduced him to Settlers of Catan, then later, his girlfriend Stephanie Lara bought him a few other games — and he started playing them “all the time.”

“I was making her play with me, I was making all my friends play with me, then I joined a local board game group and was playing games there,” Leatzow said.

But it was an expensive hobby to maintain on a journalist’s salary, he said.

“I was trying to find a way to save money on buying them, and I was buying used board games from people for a while,” he said.

“And then, one day I was visiting family in Flint … and the local game store there was renting out board games out of their store. And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a really good idea; that would be a way to make my hobby pay for itself. And then other people who aren’t sure about certain games, they could test them out before they buy them, and so it would be a win-win for everybody.’”

Leatzow decided instead of opening a shop, which would require startup cash and a lot of overhead, he would rent out his existing collection via door-to-door delivery.

He now has 60-plus games that are set at different price points, mostly by difficulty level, and customers can either rent games individually or in bundles, such as a standard package of four games for $15.

All of the game rentals are for three nights.

Leatzow also created a color-coding system for the games under the “What should I play?” tab on his website to indicate their difficulty level.

He said his brother, who lives in Ann Arbor, discovered a board game café that sorts the games by difficulty, and he passed the idea on to Leatzow.

“I did my own version of it,” he said. “I can’t remember how they were doing it, but I just thought if I color coordinated it, then if someone sees red, then they’d know, ‘Hey, this is going to be a little bit harder.’ It might be over their head or might take a lot longer than they were willing to put into it.”

Demand has slowly ramped up in the first year as Leatzow spreads the word via Facebook and Reddit. However, he said he expected the long winter to be more of a boon to business than it was.

“(That) kind of surprised me because I would think people want to play more games in the winter than they do in the spring or the summer, but I don’t know, maybe they’re just too busy shoveling their driveways or something,” he said.

In his job at the Beacon, Leatzow does a little bit of everything, including editing interviews to create videos for the newspaper’s website.

He took that skill and launched a podcast on his Lakeshore Game Night website, where he interviews gamers after a play-through to get their reactions and reviews of the game. He also interviews game creators and other figures in the gaming community.

Additionally, Leatzow writes a gaming blog on the website.

And, he created a Board Games 4 Charity event to raise money for Toys for Tots. The most recent edition consisted of board gameplay, with a suggested donation, at Bardic Wells Meadery in Montague.

So far, Lakeshore Game Night remains a passion project, but Leatzow said he hopes to make it self-sustaining in the future. He and Lara have discussed opening a board game café of their own, as well as expanding the geographic radius of the delivery business — but it’s too soon to say what may come of it.

Leatzow said he also wants to forge collaborations with local businesses in his delivery area, such as breweries, coffee shops and community centers — “to help them host events or rent them games for their customers to play,” he said.

In the meantime, Leatzow plans to keep on serving up fun and games, he said.

“It keeps getting more and more popular the more I do it. And it’s like anything: The more work you put into it, the more you get out of it.”

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