PLYMOUTH, Mich. - Chris Erwin remembers coming home one night and trying to talk to his children.
"I was sitting on the couch and literally looking through Facebook or whatever social media site I was looking at, and looked over at both of my children and asked them a question, and they just ignored me because they were just deep in the electronics," Erwin said. "That was the point where I said I've got to do something to change the direction that we're going as a family."
Erwin has two children with his wife Angela Space, Brayden, 7 and Paytyn, 5.
"We're sick of competing with their tablets, iPad and Xbox, and the cartoons. So when we come here it's not that they're a captive audience, but they kind of are a captive audience," said Space.
From their own need to put down electronics and spend quality time together, an idea was born. In July, they opened the 3 & UP Game Lounge in Plymouth, Mich.
"Our mission is to unplug from electronics and reconnect people face to face," Erwin said. "It's a unique way for people to put away their electronics, spend time with each other, a very affordable, economical way to spend your time."
The idea came to them during a visit to Toronto, Canada where they went to a board game lounge.
"Board game lounges aren't something new to this world. There's board game lounges in Australia, in New Zealand, in Toronto. There are a few board game lounges and cafes in the United States, but this is the first one in this region," Erwin said.
3 & UP has over 1,000 board games including war games, strategy games, and nostalgic games from the 1980s and '90s. There is a game for everybody who is 3 years and older.
"It's not just for families. If you're older than 3 years old, then you'll love this place," said Erwin.
Erwin said they've seen couples come in for date night, families, friends, you name it.
Employees must learn a new game on every shift and they are able to help customers find games that will be fun and work for their group.
"This is a good alternative to screen time and the opportunity to to play as a family," said Lon Lowen of Ann Arbor.
Lowen goes to 3 & UP with his wife, Jen, and four children because the lounge has so much selection and they like to play games as a family.
"I think any time you play a game it's an educational experience. There's counting, there's reading, there's following rules. There's taking turns. Every aspect of a game is like a learning process. Strategy," said Jen Lowen.
Megan Reilly has always loved board games and has spent many a Friday night playing them at her grandparents' home in Plymouth. She also likes the variety at 3 & UP.
"I've just always enjoyed board games," said Reilly. "I know a lot of people they kind of stick with oh, Monopoly, Sorry, like the ones that everyone's played, but I've found some actually really interesting ones."
Space agrees you can play board games at home, but there is an advantage to carving out time to check out their board game lounge.
"Can you do it distraction free? Are you really focusing on your friends, or your family or your children? Is your dog barking? Is your phone ringing? Is the TV on? Here we don't have any of those distractions," said Space.
Lowen and Reilly like the break from technology.
"I know it kind of annoys me when I go out somewhere like with my friends and they're sitting on their phones constantly. It's like 'Come on guys, I want to hang out with you and not have you sit on your phone.' So it's really cool to be able to be here and not have phones be the main focus like it is everywhere else," Reilly said.
The lounge also gives people an opportunity to connect with others if they grab a free parking pass.
"When another guest arrives and they're looking to play a game with someone else or meet new people, or hey there is 2 of us and some of these games require 4 people or are much more fun with 4 people, they grab a free parking pass, and when another guest arrives and sees the free parking they understand this is an open game. They're welcoming guests to come and join their game. It really starts to spring those friendships. strangers you don't know are now sitting together and really bringing that community together with free parking," said Erwin.
The cost to play is $5 for 90 minutes. The lounge also has Michigan-made drinks and snacks available for purchase. People can also bring their own.
Erwin and Space want 3 & UP to be a place for people to reconnect with friends and family and a place to develop community.
"In the end, it's time that's the most important," said Space. "The ability to spend time with your children or your friends is just, it's precious. It's precious."
Business is continuing to grow. Erwin quit his day job last month to focus on 3 & UP full time. Space is also an attorney.
3 & UP also does field trips and parties including birthdays, bachelorette parties, wedding showers, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops. For more information, click here.
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