Board Game Barrister – South Milwaukee

January 8, 2015

South Milwaukee Carpets storefront

Nearly thirty-nine years ago, in February 1976, Gary and Bonnee Lugauer moved their carpet business from West Allis to 1007 Milwaukee Avenue in downtown South Milwaukee. They opened their doors and their floors as South Milwaukee Carpet and Vinyl. The family, which eventually included two sons, Gordon and Steven, lived above the store until Gary and Bonnee retired in 2014. In 1979, when a fire destroyed the inside of the former Garden Theater next door, the theater building was annexed to the carpet store to provide a warehouse and a supplementary showroom. The expansion allowed the family business to offer additional flooring commodities such as a wide selection of first quality remnants and full rolls of carpet, laminate and luxury vinyl tile, and an array of floor care products. The expansion also permitted a wonderful, creative space for the boys and their friends. The projection room of the theater served many purposes over the years: a play room, a sewing room, Gordon’s bedroom, a percussion studio. Many grand memories.

South Milwaukee Carpets sign being overlaid with Board Game Barrister

Yes, I am that Gordon, and I grew up in that carpet store. Indeed, many, many hours of my childhood were spent playing Dungeons & Dragons, Battletech, and a whole gamut of other games in the carpet store after it was closed. And sometimes when it wasn’t. Top Secret (a.k.a “Heath Secret”, which is probably far less interesting if I actually explained it), Supremacy, and the aptly named “Steve’s System” for the games my brother invented.

Who would have imagined that I’d end up running a game store? I know, seems fitting. So, when my parents retired last year, it also seemed fitting that the buildings I grew up in would be transformed, absorbed, assimilated into the greater Board Game Barrister collective. And so it is that the Board Game Barrister – South Milwaukee came to be.

Board Game Barrister storefront

The South Milwaukee location is different than any of our other locations. First, these buildings are old. The Garden Theater at 1005 Milwaukee Avenue dates to roundabout 1920 (SM Historical Society, help me out here). The 1007 Milwaukee Avenue building is believed to be the oldest commercial building in South Milwaukee, built in the 1890’s and originally located on the corner of 10thand Milwaukee (where Parkway Floral is now) then moved to its current location sometime after the turn of the century. As a result, the layout is unusual – building joined, additions, and assorted alterations over a century or more – all contribute to a collection of disparate spaces that are suited for different uses. Not one big space that is all suitable for Board Game Barrister – style retail. So, at South Milwaukee, we have to do things differently.

For starters, this location has a really nice Mainstreet-style showroom. However, while we will be adding some additional racks to display more product, there is no getting around the fact that the space is too small to display the same range of products we are known for. So we’re doing something different.

The Board Game Barrister Clearance Center!

Storefront closeup

Part of my retail philosophy is that if I’ve made a mistake when choosing products for my stores, either because I bought too much or because I just got it wrong, I take it off the shelf. No point in having the wrong game on the shelf when we could try something else that might prove to be the right one. These aren’t bad products, just wrong for the stores they were at (truly bad products, like the batch of card holders we got last year, never get sold once we know about the problem). Or perhaps that last item from an assortment that looks lonely on the shelf, too lonely to be attractive as a possible gift. These items will at last have a home at the Clearance Center, arrayed all nice and shoppable at the Board Game Barrister – South Milwaukee.

Currently, we have just over one row of shelves, probably 100 items, in our clearance center. Everything from thinky hobby games to puzzles to LEGO. Eventually, we’ll include some ding-n-dent items and games from our demo library that are no longer seeing use. This is a really neat way to get these games, toys, and puzzles on display, and is something unique for the South Milwaukee store.

And, at a good price, too. Everything in the clearance center is 50% off.

man working on old movie marquee

The Garden Theater building, which was the South Milwaukee Carpets warehouse for the past 35 years, has become our warehouse and processing center. Processing what? Currently, processing games, toys, and puzzles that are in the warehouse and sending them to our Bayshore and Greenfield stores. But in 2015, this will also include processing orders from our soon-to-be-ready (really, I promise) online store. Having a warehouse is really pretty fantastic, and allows the other stores to focus on connecting with people through games, not receiving shipments. This will be a huge boon when we open our 4th location (no, no plans yet).

conveyor belt with a box on it

Of course, if there is all of the theoretical product in the warehouse that is being sent out to Bayshore and Greenfield, not to mention the hypothetical fantasy of a deluge of online orders (one can hope!), we need to have some way to receive shipments from our vendors. Which ends up being trickier than you might first think, because there was no concept of pallets when these buildings were built. There are different heights throughout, nothing wide enough to get a pallet in from the outside.

Fortunately, when removing some paneling that predated even the carpet store, we found a hole in the wall. Looks like it was probably used for receiving when that wall was the exterior, before the building was extended further by adding a breezeway and garage. This gave me all the excuse I needed to install a conveyor! Besides, what’s a new toy store without a new toy? Ok, color me strange.

But it did solve a legitimate problem. Now we can bring a pallet in through the garage, unload it onto the conveyor through the hole in the wall, then put it on carts and bring it to the warehouse. Neat!

South Milwaukee Carpets sign on marquee with Board Game Barrister sign waiting to be installed

So, there you have it. The complete skinny on the Board Game Barrister – South Milwaukee showroom/clearance center/warehouse/central receiving location. I know there are a lot of you who have been asking about it, and I apologize for not getting this written sooner. The holiday season, as it tends to do, consumed all my attention. Next up will be to get the website updated with all the SM store’s info on its own page (link here).

I’ll send you out with some pictures of the iconic Garden Theater marquee as we travel back in time (kinda sorta). Yes, my bedroom was the old projection room, right behind the marquee.

historical image of the Garden Theater movie marqueeremnants of the Garden sign on the marqueeOld Marquee Picture AOld Marquee Picture B