As my boyfriend, our friend and I entered D4 Tabletop Gaming Cafe, we were warmly welcomed by Tracy Meyer, partner in both business and life to Mark Meyer, the official proprietor of the restaurant. Their immediate chemistry makes it clear that husband and wife work in harmony, as a team, taking on the trials and tribulations of opening a new restaurant in New Orleans like players in one of the numerous table games they host, including Dungeons and Dragons, taking on each challenge as it comes. Tracy greeted us with a delightful smile, the epitome of an adorable “fan girl”. She gestured toward an empty table where we sat, eyeing the menu, which lists so many tasty items that I was still contemplating my order when Mark and Tracy Meyer soon approached, ready to be interviewed about their very unique, yet very in order establishment.
Margaret: Are you originally from New Orleans?
Mark: Yes, me and my wife are, we’ve been here since we were kids.
Margaret: So of course I’ve got to ask, where did you and your wife go to high school?
Mark: She’s Mt. Carmel and I’m a magnet school dropout but I went to McMain.
Margaret: What was the initial appeal of the restaurant business for you?
Mark: Well like I said I dropped out of high school so in New Orleans that pretty much means you’re gonna be working in the service industry (laughs). So I started out washing dishes and about 10 years later I remember having a chef ask me, “So where do you see your cooking career going?” and I was like “Career?” and that’s when it kinda dawned on me that I had wandered into somewhat of a career unknowingly. My wife has been in the service industry as well for over 10 years so between the two of us we have the experience to handle the food business.
Margaret: Was there a certain “Ah ha” moment when you came up with the idea for D4?
Mark: Yeah, we used to hang out at other game shops and we’d notice that some of the customers would spend their entire day there and never spend a dime but they would get hungry and go next door to buy some food and then come back and eat the food in the game shop. So it seemed pretty obvious to us at least that they needed to start selling some food, and then we thought, “We could do that”. Then we’d gone on vacation and a friend showed us a game shop in Austin called Dragons Lair which was just enormous, it was like the size of a department store and we had never seen anything like that before and it made us realize that kind of a thing was possible. And then we saw this college kid that had his own little shop and it was just a couple of glass cases and some plastic tables but he had kids in there playing games and so we saw both ends of the spectrum and that it can work.
Margaret: Are you into fandom in general?
Mark: I’ve been playing D&D since I was 7 years old.
Tracy: I consider myself kind of a casual gamer, I’ve always liked gaming but it hasn’t been like “Whoa I absolutely must do this” kind of a thing for me but I’ve been gaming since I was 18.
Margaret: What challenges did you encounter before opening D4?
Mark: The city is absolutely unkind to new businesses, the amount of hoops you have to jump through is vast and the worst part is they won’t even tell you where the hoops are or when they need to be reached. It was insane… If you ask the Fire Marshal they need to be talked to first, if you ask Permits and Safety they need to be talked to first but neither one can tell anything beyond what their specific requirements are.
Margaret: When did you open the doors and what was the initial response?
Mark: We opened the last week of March and the response was big and it’s been big but we had been working at it for 2 years. We started off trying to open across the street and that turned into its own little debacle but we had over 200 followers before we even opened the doors, people were anxious for a game shop inside the city.
Margaret: How would you make D4 even better?
Mark: We would probably start by adding more tables.
Tracy: Yeah some nights are slow but a lot of nights are packed and on those nights we look around and think yeah it would be nice to have more tables in here.
Margaret: What are each of your favorite games?
Mark: Vampires of the Masquerade.
Tracy: I like the system of Vampires of the Masquerade, but I like the lore and fantasy of Dungeons and Dragons, just being in a fantasy world and making a character, I just enjoy that setting.
Margaret: Do you guys live action role play?
Tracy: Yeah he LARP’s I don’t really get into that too much.
Mark: Yeah, a local vampire LARP which is part of the Mind’s Eye Society, they meet here once a month in the back room and out on the patio. We’ve done their last two LARP’s and we hope to be their permanent home.
Tracy: We’re kind of vampire friendly decorated back there (laughs).
Margaret: Did the process of starting your new business get any easier once you got close to opening the doors?
Well, we had attempted to get the power turned on in January, Entergy came out about 3 times looked around and then drove away, when it finally seemed like we were about to start making some headway Mardi Gras hit and Entergy doesn’t answer their phones at all during that time so we sat with no power for another 2 weeks just waiting for someone to come out and turn the switch on. At the end of two weeks they finally come out and the guy says they’re going to have to put a power pole up out front and that will take 3 weeks, so another 3 weeks goes by and finally we get the power turned on but I ask you, did you notice a new power pole out front? (There wasn’t one)
Margaret: Well it sounds like you have overcome an incredible amount to make it this far, I wish you continued success and hopefully fewer run-ins with the bureaucracy of New Orleans. Oh, and I’ll be back for some Vampire: The Masquerade!
After, the very formidable and forthcoming interview with Mark and Tracy, they showed us around their gaming and dining haven.
Clearly, D4 is a very family friendly environment, as the owners say they wish it to be.
Patrons dine on the tasty and nutritious cuisine, fuel for their highly focused, avid table game in progress,
I checked out the coffin placed in the back part of the cafe as part of the Vampires, The Masquerade LARP (Live Action Roll Playing Game), something in which I have only previously been able to indulge at some yearly fandom conventions around the Gulf Coast. Clearly, I am excited to find a far more convenient, consistent spot for the game close to home.
These two delightful individuals have a great thing going, as a couple and in their awesome, innovative new business which everyone should check out as a friendly one stop shop for their gaming and munching needs!