Since it opened its doors last September, The Kozmic Game Emporium in Macomb's downtown has offered a new and unique social opportunity. And as the shop gains more attention, its free game nights are gaining traction.
Sam Adeleke is one of the people who participated in free game night recently. Adeleke, who's been in Macomb for a little more than a year, is originally from Nigeria and is pursuing his graduate degree from Western Illinois University.
Adeleke said Macomb has been quiet during the summer months, so he was looking for ways to stay entertained and stave off any feelings of homesickness.
“This is far away from home, so you need to have fun so that you don’t miss your family. This is a very good thing to do to get yourself busy and don’t miss your family. Because this is my new family,” Adeleke said.
Adeleke is passing the time at The Kozmic Game Emporium. Kozmic holds a free board game night every Tuesday. Adeleke is joined by his friend Brittany Doyle.
Doyle is also a student employee at WIU and, like Adeleke, was looking to keep busy during the slow Macomb summer. This is the first game night either of them has attended.
“Sam and I are both chemistry majors. We ran into each other and then we started working together over the summer. It’s just us two in the library so we try and find fun things that we can do. Our boss actually attends [game night] so she invited us to come,” Doyle said..
Adeleke and Doyle are at a table at the back of The Kozmic Game Emporium. The walls are lined with wooden shelves, which are filled with hundreds of games. Around 15 gamers are split among other tables in the shop. Some have brought their own games, while others were willing to rely on Kozmic’s wide selection.
Tonight Adeleke and Doyle are playing Splendor. It’s a turn-based game in which players buy or reserve cards using gems, represented by chips.
“Yeah, this is new to us. We were trying to find something that we could learn easily and they picked this for us. I haven’t heard of most of those games up there. Yahtzee, maybe, was the only one that we’ve heard of. But it’s nice to learn something new. It’s actually kind of addicting. It’s like, ‘Oh I get it now! Let’s play again,’” Doyle said.
Adeleke and Doyle are playing with Angela Morrell, who they didn’t know before tonight. Morrell has been coming to game night for a while now. At first she was surprised to find that board games had changed quite a bit from when she was a kid.
“I’m from the school of Monopoly, and Yahtzee, and Life, and Clue, all those board games. And when I came in here I found out that those aren’t the board games that people are playing these days. And I’m not very good at most of them yet, but it’s fun anyway,” Morrell said.
Morrell has found modern games, like many of the ones played at Kozmic's weekly game night, to be fairly complex. She said they take time to learn but are ultimately a great way to socialize and keep busy. This is the reason that shop owner Adam Kozlowski began offering a weekly board game night.
“It’s just an opportunity for like-minded individuals to find a place to play and hang out with each other. And it’s kind of fun to see that many games happening at once and that many people interested in gaming,” he said.
Kozlowski said his love for board games began during his childhood when he played them with his family.
“My dad was a big board gamer as well, so he and my mom and I would often just spend a night playing board games. And that kind of continued into my later life,” Kozlowski noted.
Kozlowski said the shop offers customers an escape from their normal routines.
“I’ve heard some people say, ‘I spend all day in front of a screen working on my computer and it’s nice to go home and not sit and watch TV, not sit in front of a screen. Actually do something,’” Kozlowski said.
Kozlowski’s shop isn’t just popular among board game fans. Kathy Waters is with the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce and said Kozmic is the perfect fit for the downtown area.
“Our downtown is very historic and it serves stores like that very well. And we love to have businesses like that that attract people. People come in not only to shop there but also he holds a lot of activities and events there like game nights and it helps get people into our downtown area, into the storefronts, and it’s just a great little gem to have,” Waters stated.
Kozlowski said he’s happy to have returning players each week. It tells him that he accomplished what he intended when he started the weekly event.
“It’s nice to know that some people have found it as something to do in town. Hopefully I can contribute to the town as a whole, not just the store. Some customers have said they find themselves shopping more downtown now because they’ve been coming to shop [at Kozmic]. So hopefully that can help the other stores in the neighborhood because that’s what we want,” Kozlowski said.
In addition to game night, Kozlowski also lets customers try out games before buying them. He said his games can be played in the shop for only two dollars.
“Or if you want to take it home for a night, it’s five dollars a night to rent a game. That’s a pretty good deal in my book. In the end I find that if people like a game enough they’ll probably come back and buy it,” Kozlowski added.
Kozlowski admitted that owning a small business is a lot of hard work and long hours. But he said it’s all worth it in the end.
“I can’t afford to have anyone on staff so that’s me, 10:00 to 5:30, six days a week. Yeah, I guess I work over 50 hours a week but I don’t mind. I like it. It’s my place. And it’s my business and I enjoy gaming and I enjoy it all. So fortunately I’ve picked something I enjoy doing,” Kozlowski said.
As he approaches the end of his first year in business, Kozlowski said he’s been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support and positivity that The Kozmic Game Emporium has received.
Kozlowski has reported a successful summer despite the departure of thousands of college students from the area. He said he hopes to continue expanding his customer base and shedding light on the positive opportunities that board games can bring to the community.