Across America, geeks have won the battle for cultural supremacy. Comic book and sci-fi movies top the box office. The Big Bang Theory is the country’s highest rated scripted TV show. Thousands and thousands of people dress up like superheros to attend comic conventions. A gathering of friends is more likely to include a game of Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne than Monopoly or Clue.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that an unlikely cast has come together to launch a new business that celebrates coffee, games, and comic books. Like the members of the Avengers or the Justice League, they’re united by some common interests — swap coffee and gaming for saving the world — but they also bring a diverse set of skills to Coral Sword, the games cafe that opens in Houston’s East End on Friday, February 2 at 7 am.
San Francisco Giants outfielder (and former Houston Astro) Hunter Pence and his wife Alexis bring an enthusiasm for the power of the Twitch streaming platform that shaped the creation of Coral Sword’s content studio as a platform to broadcast game-related video — as it did when NBA All-Star Steph Curry stopped by to play Mario Kart — or to record podcasts. Reality TV star Ming Chen (AMC’s Comicbook Men) brings a passion for comic books that fuels the cafe’s lending library of graphic novels.
Barista David Buehrer and his partner Ecky Prabanto bring the experience of operating some of Houston’s most acclaimed coffee shops — Blacksmith, Greenway Coffee & Tea, and Morningstar — as well as their extensive knowledge of how to create restaurants that appeal to Houstonians. Sanford Bledsoe III (known as Sandy) is a trained barista who helped develop the comic and board game selection at Vault of Midnight, a store in Ann Arbor, MI that received the ultra-prestigious Will Eisner "Spirit of Comics" Award at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2010; he moved to Houston to be part of Coral Sword.
“I’m still pinching myself. I still think I’m dreaming that this place exists, because I’ve never been to a place like this before,” Chen tells CultureMap. “It’s a mashup of everything I love: comics, beer, gaming, comics, video games, you can podcast back there. Most important of all, it’s a place I can come and hang out with my friends.”
Coral Sword caters to a diverse set of potential customers. East End residents with no interest in gaming or comics can come by for coffee, tea, doughnuts (by Morningstar), baked-to-order pizza, and gamer-friendly fare like chicken strips and cheese sticks (really). In six weeks or so, Coral Swords will offer 10 taps or craft beer and wines by-the-glass.
Groups of friends that want to gather for casual games can check out one of the 50 options from the cafe’s game library. Patrons can choose from famous titles like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride to casual, quick-play affairs like Hey, That’s My Fish or family-friendly options with multi-generational appeal. Purchase a new game to take home from the store’s retail section.
“There’s so many games I want to shout out,” Alexis Pence says. “They’re very specifically curated because they’re games that we know people will enjoy. If you come in with a party, [we can suggest] these are games that are good for eight people or just two.”
Hard core gamers may choose to rent time in the content studio to broadcast their video game heroics or to record a podcast using the studio’s high quality microphones and powerful computer. The Danger Room offers space for organized tournament of both video games and board games; Friday nights are devoted to Magic: The Gathering, which is a personal favorite of Buehrer’s.
“If someone wanted to have their Dungeons & Dragons night and they didn’t want to pick up after everyone, we’ll set up a table of eight,” Buehrer says. “If you want to stream it online, I’ll help you do that, too. Someone could have a Dungeons & Dragons channel creating content from our space.”
Take a video tour of Coral Sword courtesy of our content partners at ABC-13:
Coral Sword, 1318 Telephone Rd.; 832-303-9891; Monday through Saturday, 7 am - midnight ; Sunday, 10 am - 10 pm