HOUSTON -- Hunter Pence still has more Major League Baseball games to play, but someday, when he does wrap up his career and move on to the next chapter, he envisions himself hanging out at a lot of coffee shops.Pence likes the casual atmosphere and the interaction among patrons, all
HOUSTON -- Hunter Pence still has more Major League Baseball games to play, but someday, when he does wrap up his career and move on to the next chapter, he envisions himself hanging out at a lot of coffee shops.
Pence likes the casual atmosphere and the interaction among patrons, all the while savoring a perfectly perked cup of joe. He may even want to own and operate a coffee shop, and if that's the path he takes, he will bring experience to that particular business venture.
Pence, who will soon head to Arizona for Spring Training to resume his current gig as an outfielder for the San Francisco Giants, is now part-owner of Coral Sword, a gaming cafe located few miles from downtown Houston intended to bring together people who enjoy board games and video games, specialty coffee, craft beer and tasty food.
Consider it one-stop shopping for anyone who wants to meet friends for both a drink and an ultra-competitive night of gaming.
"In this day and age, there's so many people on their phones and so many people on their computers," Pence said. "Game nights is becoming a thing. It has a lot of value to have that interaction, that connection, that face-to-face time."
Coral Sword will open its doors to the public Friday morning at 7 a.m. and stay open until midnight.
The cafe offers a smorgasbord of mainstream and indie board games, all prominently displayed in the front part of the cafe. The bar sports taps for craft beer and coffee-brewing machines. In the mornings, the food options will include doughnuts and breakfast tacos. Later in the day, customers can nosh on salads, chicken strips, cheese sticks and pizza.
Coral Sword includes a separate room called "The Danger Room," a space set aside for the more competitive gamers, as well as Friday Night Magic competitions. There is also a content-creating studio, with a streaming/podcast booth that connects the cafe to the outside audience. Most of the tournaments and shows will be streamed on Twich.tv.
Patrons can also rent the space to shoot a film, host a YouTube channel or do a podcast or videocast.
"A lot of the new games that are being created, there's so many opportunities to learn new cool things," Pence said. "Making it accessible, and having someone on hand that can show you the new games, you can learn and have these great experiences while having a good time with your friends and expanding your imagination."
Ownership of Coral Sword is a joint venture between Pence and his wife, Alexis, and several experts in relevant fields -- David Buehrer and Ecky Prabano, who created Greenway Coffee Company and operate several coffee cafes in Houston; Ming Chen, a pop culture and gaming aficionado who is the star of the original series "Comic Book Men" on AMC; and Sanford Bledsoe, who formerly owned the Espresso Bar in Ann Arbor, Mich., and worked at Vault of Midnight Comics prior to moving to Houston to establish Coral Sword.
Pence met Buehrer several years ago through simply hanging out at Buehrer's coffee shops around town. The two got to chatting one day, and Pence expressed his interest in someday opening a cafe.
"One day I called him and said, 'If we do that coffee shop, I want to have games involved,'" Pence recalled.
It took a couple of years, but Buehrer found a desirable location near the University of Houston. He showed Pence the space, and a concept was born.
"This is something we really like to do, and board games are gaining in popularity, especially indie board games," Buehrer said. "We're all foodies and coffee geeks. We ended up coming together at the same moment to create the space we did. We can have great coffee, something great to eat and play a great game."
Living in an age where digital devices have largely replaced the simple concept of spending time with friends up close and in person, the ownership group at Coral Sword envisions the cafe appealing to both the social and competitive sides to perspective patrons.
"I couldn't tell you the last person I called on the phone; everybody just texts or updates their Facebook statuses now," Chen said. "To have a place to gather face to face, and play a tangible game and have that interaction, I think it's great. I think it's healthier as well."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.