New gaming hub to open on Union Street

21/06/2024

A new immersive hub and retail space for tabletop roleplay gamers and trading card enthusiasts is to become the latest addition to Aberdeen’s Union Street.

The Thistle Tavern Games Hub is due to open on Saturday, June 29 at 395 Union Street, which was previously a Virgin Money bank and has been chosen for its proximity to the city’s train and bus stations.

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The new venture by friends and former colleagues Stuart Robb and Andrew Rayner has been warmly welcomed by Our Union Street, which aims to bring businesses and people to Aberdeen’s main street by driving regeneration.

Thistle Tavern has been successfully trading online for more than a year, branching out to include board games and Dungeons and Dragons miniatures.

With the help of two £20,000 Start Up Loans from the British Business Bank and DSL Business Finance, plus support from Our Union Street, Stuart and Andrew decided the time was right to move into physical premises.

The new venture was also supported by Aberdeen City Council’s Union Street Empty Shops Grant Scheme.

Stuart is a senior product manager for a recruitment technology company, while Andrew is a senior business analyst for a payroll firm. Both travel around the world competing in lucrative trading card tournaments, with Andrew having recently competed in Los Angeles.

With the global trading card game market predicted to be worth $4.27billion by 2028, their aim is to create a Team Scotland, made up of like-minded enthusiasts who are also keen to play at national and international level.

“We know from the existing Geek Retreat store on Union Street that there is a very active community and there’s demand for a gaming hub, so we have decided now is the right time to move into premises,” said Stuart.

“We aim to appeal to professionals and those who already play but want to get better and meet new players who are into the same games.”

The shop will have retail space at the front, with rooms for hire at the back of the store for trading and gaming.

“We have been selling trading cards, such as Pokémon, online since April 2023, and we are excited to bring a space for gamers to the city centre. We chose the location as it’s close to the west end but within easy reach of the train and bus stations to help us attract more players from outside Aberdeen,” added Stuart.

“We decided not to add a café but instead to encourage visitors to use other outlets on Union Street and to spend time in the surrounding area. The market is considerable and we are looking forward to seeing where the Thistle Tavern Games Hub takes us.”

The unit will employ a full-time retail manager, creating several additional casual posts, with the aim of employing further permanent staff by the end of the year.

Bob Keiller, leader of Our Union Street, said: “It’s great to see different types of businesses coming onto the street, including those that are activity based. It’s important that we encourage different demographics to the city centre and we wish Stuart, Andrew and the team at Thistle Tavern Games Hub continued success in their new home.”

Our Union Street is being funded by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, Aberdeen Inspired, Aberdeen City Council, Shell, AB15 Ltd and Opportunity North East, with additional support from the Scottish Government.

As more than £100million is invested to regenerate the city centre, Our Union Street has put together a package of incentives in order to attract new businesses, as well and rent and rates relief.

The British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans programme has supported more than 480 entrepreneurs and delivered more than £5.4 million in loans to new business owners in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire since it began in 2012.

  • Thistle Tavern Games Hub will open to the public on Saturday, June 29 and will be open from 4-11pm weekdays and extended hours at the weekend.

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