Editor’s note: This article is underwritten by Plexpod — a progressive coworking platform offering next generation workspace for entrepreneurs, startups, and growth-stage companies of all sizes — but was independently produced by Startland News.
Stories from Nate Morsches’ grandfather sounded like plot lines in an Indiana Jones film, the Lawrence entrepreneur recalled; only the tales he heard as a child were real and packed with an air of adventure that would inspire ventures to come.
“[My grandfather, Patricio Pascua] grew up in the Philippines, in a tiny fishing village. When the Japanese were occupying his area in the 1940s, they invaded his town and killed his father and brother,” Morsches said, weaving the story that saw Pascua, his childhood hero, flee the bloodshed with his fiancé — into the mountains, where the pair hid out until the town was safe.
“They eventually hopped onto a cargo ship and went over to Hawaii, and he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and then the U.S. Air Force and actually fought against the Japanese,” Morsches continued, still amazed by the story of his grandparents’ resilience, almost as if unfolding it for the first time.
“All of this is to say that once his family was safe, he spent the rest of his life focusing on what was most important to him.”
That meant making lasting memories with friends and family — a value that stuck with Morsches and inspired his role as founder, now leading Lawrence-based Restaurant, Pub and Games (RPG).
“[My grandfather] would have these massive parties in this tiny house,” Morsches said. “He would invite friends, family — literally anyone off the streets. They’d put like 70 to 100 people on the lawn and in the house. They’d be singing and dancing and there was tons of food and tons of drinks.”
A similar environment is envisioned within the walls of RPG — home to a 1,000-board-game library, drinks that include the pub’s take on a mythical “health potion,” and dishes like a vegan-take on General Tso’s chicken and curried cauliflower tacos.
Click here to learn more about RPG, its game rental library, or order takeout.
“I’ve never worked with a staff that is so committed to the mission. They really want to build the community in the same way that I do,” he said of the bustling business that’s boosted by downtown Lawrence and its network of local merchants.
Teammates at RPG include his co-founders: wife, Meghan Morsches; best friend, Matt Pool; and Pool’s wife, Betsy Pool.
“I have my grandfather who inspired me to come up with this idea, but they’ve latched onto it and they have been amazing ambassadors to the community for what we’re trying to do. And I couldn’t be more grateful for them.”
Customers play on
With its human-focused business model challenged by social distancing requirements throughout the pandemic-era, RPG’s leadership had to think outside the game box and roll the dice in new and creative ways, Morsches explained.
“We call it, ‘Bring RPG Home,’ because it’s very much what it is,” he said of the company’s board game rental service and takeout menu pivots — all of which have received further guidance amid the pandemic as Morsches completed the latest cohort of the Enterprise Center in Johnson County’s Pitch Perfect program.
“The community that we build inside our restaurant — we want to transport into your home, as you play games with your family,” he said.
And in 2020, gathering around the Scrabble board or embarking on a quest in Dungeons and Dragons — Morsches’ personal favorite game — is cooler than it’s been in a long time, he said.
“By now people tend to have the group they’re willing to actually get together with, so small groups are playing games,” Morsches said of recent customer trends.
“Games that you can play with your kids have really been coming off the shelves faster than any other type of game,” he continued. “It’s been a really great resource for families.”
Investing in main street
Ensuring the pub and gamers lounge can maintain its ability to create community into 2021 and beyond is the source of a new and unique crowdfunding campaign, Morsches said.
“We kind of stumbled across Mainvest and they’re a pretty new company,” he said of the seed stage crowdfunding platform that enables residents to invest in their community and receive a return on contributions of $100 by 2026.
To date, RPG has raised $33,600 of its $50,000 goal.
“This cash injection is obviously going to allow us to branch out and develop these projects that we’ve been wanting to work on. … It’s really just a great situation for everybody involved.”
Click here to learn more about Mainvest and its mission to enable communities to invest in main street businesses.
The ability to reward donors who support the mission of RPG was perfect for Morsches and his journey to honor his grandfather and his signature spirit of giving, he added.
“This method allows us to give back more. … Board games seem to be the way to bridge a gap in the 21st Century. We’ve got the digital age and social media decreasing face-to-face interaction and it just seems, as a whole, we’ve forgotten what real community is worth,” Morsches said of RPG’s mission to connect people and create lasting memories like those he has from his childhood.
“There’s just a visceral human need for face-to-face interaction that we’ve forgotten. That’s why we started the business and it’s near and dear to my heart to make sure that we’re fostering those types of relationships.”