I’d like to take a moment to reflect on 42 Lounge, our community that has grown throughout the past five years of it’s existence and the impact both of those things have had on my life.
As a business, I try not to make personal statements, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever spoken about something so deeply personal to me from the platform of 42. I’m not honestly sure where to start. Perhaps the beginning…
When I opened 42 Lounge, I was young and naïve. Despite spending two years developing my business plan, I had no actual experience owning or running a business. My aunt, a veteran bar owner herself, called me a few days before we opened to reassure me that, as a fifth-generation female bar owner, running a bar was in my blood, and things would be just fine. Her words have a way of calming my nerves, and I believed her… a little. Before we hung up, she gave me one last piece of advice: “Make sure you have enough ice.”
I lost sleep that night trying to figure out how much ice the ice machine was capable of making in a day and how I could possibly hoard extra ice ahead of time in preparation for the onslaught of customers demanding ice for their empty cups. Then I worried that we wouldn’t need any ice at all because we wouldn’t have any customers. This vicious cycle played out in my head over and over again.
When the big night finally came, we as bartenders couldn’t keep up with demand, but the ice machine did. I was elated. At one point, I grabbed the microphone with the intention of thanking people for coming out, but instead I babbled some unintelligible nonsense, then became overwhelmed by the cheering response, which caused me to cry, become embarrassed, and run in the back to hide. Based on the applause and the empty liquor room and beer coolers the next day, I think it’s safe to say the initial response was positive. I was inspired on a level that I had never felt before.
It’s been five years, and that first night still feels like yesterday. Looking back on the past five years, what stands out to me in the blur of time is the happiness, the hugs, the laughter and the community. It didn’t take much time for this little bar to become a gathering place of nerds who finally had a place to call their own. A place to talk about the games, shows, books and hobbies they were passionate about not only without fear of ridicule, but in a place where they were extremely likely to be able to share their passions with others. Customers started telling me, “I always make new friends at 42.” We weren’t referred to as 42 Lounge anymore. Just 42. Or just Lounge. Because customers knew exactly what that meant, and that felt exclusive in a way that only people who’ve been on the outside looking in at the “cool kids” their whole lives could really appreciate.
We started doing events just because they seemed like good, fun ideas, or because enough people wanted them, not necessarily because they represented good business ideas. We took a bunch of tipsy nerds to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, hosted a Mad Scientist party (where the bottles were covered, so you had no idea what you were ordering—worst/best idea ever!) that caught the attention of the MPD due to the number of calls citing, “Strange individuals walking around Downtown in lab coats carrying briefcases,” we hired Freezepop to play at our Cosplay Rave at Turner Hall, rented out entire theaters to watch advanced screenings of Star Wars, finally had our Over 9000 Dragon Ball party, and hosted Milwaukee’s largest Harry Potter Yule Ball themed dance event to date. We also hosted hundreds of smaller gaming events, tournaments and charity events. Believe it or not, some of these events weren’t very lucrative, and many of them were planned knowing full well we would only break even on them. I’m grateful to have had the chance to have a hand in creating experiences that have helped a community come together and share memories that will last a lifetime, and I want to thank everyone who was a part of them–from our customers to our staff– all of you played an important role in making this place what it has become.
I feel like I’d be intentionally skipping a chapter if I didn’t mention that 42 also opened a second location. We might not be associated with them anymore, but despite all the drama, my time spent there wasn’t wasted. Much was learned and gained from the knowledge and the community of that location, and I personally miss the location and the staff I had very much.
It hasn’t been a perfect five years. We’ve made mistakes along the way, but I can genuinely look back and say that at every step, 42 Lounge put our community first. I have no doubt that doing so was a huge key to our success. This community is larger and stronger than ever, and honestly I feel like as a whole we are more open and welcoming now than we ever have been.
Typing out my feelings for all the world to see isn’t easy, but I think it’s important to let you all know what an impact every single one of you has had on my life. I don’t know where I’d be personally without 42. This bar and the community of people here saved me from a life of boredom defined by grey cubicle walls and sales calls. Almost every single friend I have is connected to 42 in some way. My life is richer because of the people I’ve met, the hugs I’ve received and the hands I’ve shook. As we neared the end of our lease on Mason Street, I knew I had an obligation to ensure that Milwaukee had a Friendly Local Game Bar (you heard it here first, folks! I’m coining that phrase!) to call home. There have been more than a few sleepless nights (and weeks) where I agonized over the future of this business and the impact that the wrong decision could make on the community.
Now as we near the final few days here at our Mason Street location, it feels like we’ve hit max level, and we’re ready to start a new campaign. I’m excited to turn the page to a new chapter in 42’s history—one that will be full of growth and opportunity as well as new events and even more gaming experiences. I also can’t express how thrilled I am to adventure forth with our new partner, Board Game Barrister, who has been beyond gracious in making all of this happen. It will only be a short time before we’re ready to throw open the doors to Oak and Shield Gaming Pub and welcome you all. In the meantime, we’d love to see you one last time before we move. It’s not goodbye… it’s Thanks for All the Fish!
Most sincere thanks,
Owner, 42 Lounge
Co-Owner, Oak and Shield Gaming Pub