At least partly fueled by his sense that people of all ages spend too much time playing video games by themselves, and partly because he loves board games, Jake Martens made an addition to his business in downtown St. Charles.
Button Man Printing, 7 E. Main St., added a sign to the storefront a few months ago proclaiming it also as the home of Button Man Gaming.
"I had a retail wall here that wasn't doing anything, so I wanted to sell something that was fun and have people come out to the store," said Martens, who started selling board games with the offer that visitors could come in and try any of the 50 demo games he has on-site.
Ultimately, he would like to see Button Man Gaming, located in the former Burger Drugs location, become a place where people gather to play board games on a regular basis. It is under that premise the company uses the tagline "Play together, Not alone" as a mantra to follow.
"I like paying games, sitting around a table with other people, rather than just in front of a computer or TV screen by myself," said Martens, who has had his printing company at that location since 2014.
Now, he sells all sorts of board games, including a series of the popular global-triumph board game Risk. The store has Lord of the Rings Risk, Star Wars Risk, Game of Thrones Risk and others.
If you've been away from board games for a long time, you might not recognize the names of what Martens calls the most popular in the store -- Catan and Ticket to Ride.
Catan features an ever-changing board and focuses on resource management in what amounts to a road building competition.
Ticket to Ride focuses on building railroad systems throughout the U.S.
One might say these games represent a more focused world of what many of us would have simply called Monopoly years ago.
"People just love these games, but they are the type where you can get pretty angry, and people will flip the board," Martens laughed.
You won't spot all of the old standbys like Yahtzee and some other dice or card games because Martens knows the national big box stores carry most of those.
"I am not a specialized board game store, but the games I carry are more along the lines of sitting down and playing for an hour or longer each time," Martens added.
If shoppers can figure out what is really going on at the store, Martens is likely to find some game buyers out there.
"My store signs says Button Man in big words, with shipping, printing and mailboxes in smaller words below it," he said. "In the window, it also says Button Man Gaming, so it can be a little confusing."
About those toys:
Having spent some time combing the toy aisles this holiday shopping season to buy some gifts for the local toy drives, it reminded me things have changed quite a bit since I was a kid or when my son was a toddler. But the basic premise of what kids like has not changed much.
When I was a kid, it was Davy Crockett coonskin caps all the way for the boys. And Barbie or Chatty Cathy for the girls.
When my son was a youngster, it was Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joe, with Batman starting to make his move. The girls were still zeroing in on Barbie and Beanie Babies.
Today, there is still plenty of super heroes stuff and plenty of Barbie stuff. Legos, Play-Doh and Lincoln Logs still have their place in the toys ecosystem as well.
This year's "hot" toys are things called Hatchimals and Fingerlings. Hey, I remember when a thing called a "Rat Fink" ring was popular, and I am pretty sure I had one.
It's still a grand search, from the times when Santa showed off plenty of his wares in a thing called the Sears holiday catalog, to today when the North Pole seems to have plenty of online outlets in addition to toy aisles for finding the jolly elf's best stuff.
Welcome to …
We were actually just commenting a couple of weeks ago about how nice the city signs in all of our towns look as a way to greet drivers, bikers or walkers making their way across city lines.
Now, Geneva says it was time to make them even nicer as the city planned to put new ones in place this month. The artist rendering certainly stands out, as shown in the Daily Herald this week, and the signs themselves should look sharp as well.
A good day's work:
On a day when Colonial Café said it would match donations up to $30,000 in the area's Salvation Army kettles, the Salvation Army says it raised $131,000.
Colonial's donation on top of that amount will be split between four area SA regions.
That big day took place on Dec. 9. But here's a reminder -- the Salvation Army doesn't ring on Sundays, which means it will lose out on any donations that would be available on Christmas Eve this year.
So slide your donations into the buckets prior to Sunday.
Just wondering …
Here's one of those strange thoughts that pop into my head on occasion for no apparent reason.
Does anyone still play an accordion?
That instrument has always fascinated me in terms of the sounds coming out of it, and the way in which the musician has to hold it and coordinate finger movements.