Look around any Twin Cities mall and you’ll likely see the ever-popular board game shop, Games by James. But this locally known shop isn’t a national chain; physical operations take place right here in Edina, and it’s owned by Prior Lake resident Logan McKee, who purchased the shop from his father Glenn McKee in the coming months of its 40th anniversary.
“A lot of people don’t realize we’re a local company. Most people walk into every mall and assume [the store] is in every mall,” Logan McKee says. But this family-owned shop is proving its popularity, as it sticks around through the rapidly changing board game industry.
Though board games like Monopoly, Catch Phrase and Apples to Apples were sought-after 20 years ago, McKee says lighter strategy games have taken over the market. Ticket to Ride, Catan and Pandemic are just a few of the games that have flown off the Games by James shelves. Though the shop may bring in “thousands of new products a year,” he says, they’re also making sure hot-ticket items are fully stocked.
Five of the eight stores have game tables set up, where customers can play board games before purchasing them. Plus, the stores are equipped with hundreds of products, literally filling each wall from the floor to practically the ceiling. Stocked with classic games, popular strategy games, card games, toys, brain teasers, puzzles, novelty games and more, there’s just about every type of game imaginable.
Speaking to its success, McKee says, “I feel very confident that our success is based on how we’ve evolved with the board game industry … Board games have become mainstream, and we cater to that mainstream, but our business strategy has never changed.”
He attributes the prosperity to its wide variety of game options, excellent customer service and product knowledge, but most importantly, to customer loyalty. With 60,000 customers enrolled in their reward program (where customers earn 10–20 percent back on purchases) and nearly 60 percent of rewards being redeemed each year, it’s clear repeat business is highly prevalent.
To celebrate, Games by James hosted a 40th anniversary party in the rotunda at the Mall of America last October—complete with games, ticket drawings, giveaways and donations to the Autism Society of Minnesota (AUSM). “We’ve worked with [AUSM] in the past, so it was a no-brainer to work with them again,” McKee says. “We donated 40 percent of our sales and raised over $2,600 [for AUSM].”
McKee explains, “We want to build awareness that we are local and family-owned for 40 years. We’re locally operated and successful, and we’ve been around for so long. It’s all thanks to Minnesota.”
Games from James
Play more games with these recommendations from Logan McKee:
- For the youngest gamers
Haba Games makes a lot of great children’s games with high quality wooden pieces. First Orchard (Ages 2+, $25.99) is a color matching game that can be played by a 2 year old. Unicorn Glittlerluck (Ages 4+, $21.99) is a great stacking game for children ages 4 and up. Both are cooperative and all players win or lose together. In Caterpillar Crawl (Ages 4-10, $14.99), players try to get to the finish line made of food, which means you’ll fill up first and turn into a butterfly before your friends!
- For kids of most ages
Clack! (ages 5+, $16.99) is both the name of the game and the sound its magnetic discs make when slapped one against another. Players slap the discs together as they try to claim the right discs as quickly as possible. Clack! Categories (ages 7+, $24.99) features advanced game play with a category die. Players match "food" or "vehicles" in this fast-paced thinking game for slightly older kids.
- For larger groups/families
Slapzi (2-10 players, Ages 8+, $19.99) is a fun, fast-paced game from the makers of the popular dice game Tenzi. Snake Oil (3-10 players, 10+, $24.99) is a fun and award-winning party card game that inspires creativity and laughs. It was also the #5 best-selling game of the holiday season at Games By James in the Mall of America.
- For design lovers/more experienced gamers
Bosk (Ages 13+, $44.99) was created by local game company, Floodgate Games. Players nurture majestic trees during changing seasons to help them thrive in a beautiful National Park. Points are awarded for the most coverage in each region in the park.
- People pleasers/fun for all ages
Twincities-opoly ($31.99) was designed by Glenn McKee (previous Games By James owner and father of Logan) along with warehouse manager Bob McNeil. Twin Cities-opoly is a standard Monopoly-style board game but with locations, attractions and iconic places located in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Take in a show at the Guthrie Theatre, shop at the Mall of America or attend the St. Paul Winter Carnival. But watch out for Winter and Road Construction cards and you may lose at Mystic Lake Casino or win the Milk Carton Boat Race at the Minneapolis Aquatennial, If you land on Minnesota Nice, the pot is yours! Or try a puzzle with a twist! PuzzleTwist jigsaw puzzles ($21.99) provide a fresh challenge to the tried and true.