Mana Games Becomes First Board Game Cafe in Downtown Lincoln
Where Indigo Bridge once stood, Mana Games has made their home. With over 800 games to choose from, this is a perfect edition to Downtown Lincoln.
BY TESSA WISER
Mana Games opened its doors on January 8th.
Life-long friends came together in 2018 with a goal in mind. Soon the future owners, Alma Cerretta and Sam Volkmer decided to think about Mana Games. With Cerretta’s decade of experience managing coffee shops and Sam’s master's degree in business, Mana Games was born. The pair decided to start weekly events at Cosmic Eye Brewing to get their name out.
“We ran a weekly gaming event there,” Cerretta said. “My good friends, Sam and Michelle Riggins, own the place and they were like ‘oh, we would love to have some [people] playing games here every week,’ and that is exactly what we wanted to do. So we volunteered to start running those events.”
Cerretta and Volkmer ran those events for about four years, two years in, they decided to look at spaces to grow their business in February 2020. As they started looking for places to rent out, the world began its COVID dormancy.
Before COVID Alma Cerretta could always be found working in coffee shops while working towards her degree. Alma’s close friend Sam Volkmer was working on his business degree but that did not stop their love of games or business management.
“When COVID hit, we put [launching] on hold until we felt it was safe. It was also very important to us that we found the perfect space,” Cerretta said.
After putting their dreams on hold, Mana Game owners continued putting on weekly events.
“During the meantime, we hosted virtual events and a lot of live streaming to connect with the community,” Cerretta said. “When the vaccine came out and it started feeling more safe, we found the perfect spot, I wouldn’t have planned this space any differently.”
The Mana Games entrepreneurs considered many locations to set up shop. On their radar was the old Indigo Bridge spot. Cerretta mentioned if there wasn’t an opening in the Creamery Building, Mana Games would not have been located downtown.
Cerretta and Volkmer decided when opening up a business that safety comes first.
Mana Games’ sanitation protocols are thorough; one of their main goals is to maintain a COVID-free environment. After a customer plays a game, they put the game on a shelf. An employee will go through and sanitize all parts before putting the game back into the library.
“We try to make sure everything is wiped down before putting it away,” Cerretta said.
Volkmer and Cerretta have known each other for many years and it only made sense to combine their shared interests and their strengths.
“I’ve known Sam for probably half my life now,” Cerretta said. “He’s really into tabletop games, but this has been something that has been on the back of his mind his whole life, and basically my entire adult life.”
With Volkmer and Cerretta’s love of games, their love for all gaming entertainment grew. While hosting events at Cosmis Eye Brewing, Cerretta and Volkmer tried different gaming styles including RPGs (Role Playing Games), video games, and even table top events.
“Then we got involved with the Great Plane’s Gaming Festival,” Cerretta said. “We met a lot of people that way and it was really clear that this community needed a space to come together and hang out.”
Day game pass pricing starts at $5 daily and starts at $15 for a monthly membership. A day pass includes unlimited game play and a monthly pass gives access to special events and 10% in-store purchases. Mana Game pricing is listed here.
Mana Games and Ivanna Cone have discussed collaborating on items in the cafe. The wide selection of coffee and ice cream creates a lot of options for customers.
“Because what is better than having ice cream right across the hall?” Cerretta said. “And I have space dedicated to my coffee and my food, you come hang out like any other coffee shop.”
Cerretta and Volkmer’s number one goal for this place is inclusivity.
“This was born out of the desire to create an inclusive community space for all types of gamers,” Cerretta said.
Mana Games decided to keep some of the interior designs of Indigo Bridge including a sign about respecting each other’s pronouns. They cater to all gamers, new and old.
“We have a section for a lower age point like, four to six years,” Cerretta said. “Older people can come in and bring their children, we have a vintage and classic section, that’s where you’ll find our Scrabble and Sorry. Sam is particularly into finding vintage games that are super fun.”
There is something for everyone here. If you find a game that Mana Games does not have, you can write down a suggestion and they will look into getting it.
“About half of our collection is from an investor who had this amazing collection and wanted us to be successful,” Cerretta said. “We have got a lot of games donated to us by people from the community that want us to succeed.”
Mana Games is always looking for donations to expand their library.
The game library isn’t the only thing Mana Games has to offer; there is a selection of coffee drinks and food.
“We got a rapid cook oven that can cook our food for a minute or two or even less and I think that’s really important,” Cerretta said. “Downtown has a lot of great food options but not a lot of quick options, there’s a lot of sit down options, but I’m trying to carve out a niche for us as having quick food options.”
In addition to personal pizzas, Mana Games serves breakfast food like bagels, oatmeal, yogurt. In the evenings they serve personal pizzas, pretzels, chips, and other pub-like food.
“We are actually going to be rolling out like soup and hot sandwiches,” Cerretta said. “Give us a little bit as I think we’ll have a pretty solid menu.”
Mana Games is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends. At this time Mana Games doesn’t foresee themselves serving alcoholic beverages unless for special occasions.
“We may do some ticketed events in the future, like maybe once a month partnering with a local brewery or bar,” Cerretta said. “Once you serve alcohol, it makes a lot of rules that we weren’t really happy with, I don’t want to have to limit when my customers come in. But we have been experimenting with some mocktails, some with dry ice, or something fun and exciting. You can still get a really cool drink from us since we’re open late.”
Mana Games' opening day was a success. A couple hundred people attended to welcome the board game cafe’s official location.
“There were a lot of people that day,” Cerretta said. “I am looking forward to seeing people that came to our grand opening, and come back in a couple of weeks.”