The stick is called the tang and the puck is called the biscuit. The court consists of two elongated triangles and some finely buffed hardwood to optimize the glide. The game is shuffleboard, and while its origins are a bit ambiguous, there is no doubt that it is finding itself a new home in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood.
Although a few older folks drop in to teach the youngsters a thing or two, a snapshot of Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club on a Friday night will reveal that this is not your grandfather’s game anymore. A few of the more romantic players may dress in Florida retiree chic: Panama hat, plaid on plaid, etc., but there is no requisite dress code. It’s all about the love of the game and having a good time.
The former may need a little explanation, especially if someone in the party is under, say, 25. “A few people have even asked us, ‘Did you invent the game?’” said Royal Palms co-owner Ashley Albert. She and Jonathan Schnapp started the venue almost as a lark after dropping by the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club. Schnapp was visiting family in Florida and Albert was living in Miami. They were ecstatic to find that “young and cool and hip people play shuffleboard,” and an idea was born.
They found an old industrial warehouse on Union Street, started assembling tons of memorabilia to create a vibe and opened in February. In addition to the shuffleboard courts, which can be rented for $40 an hour, there are a plethora of old-school board games including giant Connect Four, and a different food truck that parks itself inside the joint every night. The whole collage makes for a nice escape from typical New York City. Albert added, “For Jonathan it was about the game. And for me it was about the transportive experience.”
Shuffleboard celebrated its 100th anniversary in the States last year and while it’s not ever going to become America’s game, introducing it to new audiences in this format is a pretty creative idea. Lots of businesspeople have come out of the woodwork wanting to open their own versions of Royal Palms around the country and even in places like Dubai and Singapore. For now, Albert and Schnapp want to concentrate on growing the sport and have no immediate plans to expand. “We just want people to love shuffleboard as much as we do,” said Albert. At the end of our interview, I asked her “why shuffleboard?” to which she genuinely responded, “I was always the last person picked in PE. You never know who is going to be good at this game.”
This will be Alan’s final column for a while. He wants to express deep thanks and forever gratitude to the readers who leaned in a little to listen to his work over the years and to Pulse for giving him a space to explore.