What to expect from Chester Geek Retreat’s new gaming cafe
It took over 18 months of preparation, but Geek Retreat is finally ready to open its doors in Chester city centre. Wirral-based couple Michael Edwards and Toni Johnson are bringing the famous franchise chain to town – and they can’t wait to get started.
The “Alternative Gaming Cafe” opens at its new location in Watergate Street on April 9. Toni, who already runs a Geek Retreat franchise with her partner in Hoylake, promises a safe, alcohol-free place for people of all ages and backgrounds.
She revealed to CheshireLive that she and Michael were all set to move forward with plans to open at Burger King’s former property on Foregate Street in 2020. However, they changed their minds belatedly due out of fear starting a new business during the pandemic would have been a bad idea.
READ:Gaming cafe Geek Retreat set to open location in Chester city center
The decision worked out well. The couple have since had one child, are now expecting another baby and have subsequently found a venue in an area of town they feel is more suitable. Toni believes the success of her Hoylake site, which opened in August 2019 and was Geek Retreat’s fifth franchise, can be replicated in Chester.
She said: “Chester was always going to be next. We both love the town and it’s not too far from our home. We’ve done a lot of research on Chester and there’s a demand for something like that .
“It’s a good model and we can replicate it in a city centre. We’re an inclusive place – you can come from any age, whether it’s 2 to 92. We’re creating a safe environment in this which we consider to be an alternative cafe game.”
Toni added: “We wanted to do it in September 2020 but it was not the right time to open at that time. We were all set to go to the old Burger King site on Foregate Street.
“We could have gone all the way, but we backed out. We hung on and waited. I’m so glad we did. We found this place in September last year and we’re absolutely thrilled. It was meant to be.”
It was her partner Mike who started the Hoylake site after deciding to change careers to fit in with family life. He also has two children from a previous relationship and was working for a company at the time where he had to travel a lot.
Toni explained: “It was a living wage but he wanted to be closer to his family. He was wasting time with the kids because of all the traveling and commuting. He was looking to do his own business and saw the opportunity of franchise.
“He’s also a bit of a geek himself! I wasn’t part of the Hoylake opening but I’ve been with Mike since Covid started. I’ll be overseeing both branches as Mike helps head office set up new franchises.”
Toni has retained the services of Tad Walker, who worked for several years at the recently closed Build-A-Bear store in the Grosvenor Mall, to manage the premises on a day-to-day basis. It has also recruited four other staff members with the possibility that other positions may become available in the future.
Geek Retreat Chester will be open 10am-10pm weekdays, 10am-7pm Saturdays and 11am-7pm Sundays. Describing itself as “the friendliest place to eat, meet, socialize and play”, the place offers Yu-gi-oh!, Warhammer, Pokémon, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic The Gathering, board games, anime , from science fiction to superheroes , and artistic outlets.
Community events and activities planned for the near future include “learn and play sessions” for children, an arts centre, book signings by fantasy novelists and a designer market. Geek Retreat Chester will also offer party rental options.
To celebrate the opening of the site, Geek Retreat Chester will be hosting an individual launch day cosplay event on Saturday 9th April, followed by a family and couples cosplay event the following day. For more details visit Geek Retreat Chester.
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