Victory Point Cafe: A place for cards and coffee to converge


Victory Point Cafe on Shattuck Avenue isn’t a normal  cafe;  it’s  a  gaming cafe. They have an expansive game collection and serve food for customers to enjoy while they play. Derek DeSantis, the current co-owner of the cafe, thought of the idea over 10 years ago, and opened it in 2015. He used to host dinner, have drinks, make pizza, and play games with his friends, and one night he had the idea to combine all of these aspects into a public space. 

He started by researching how to start a business and continued by putting together a 100-page business plan, making the finances and the steps to execute the idea as clear as possible. He then put up a website that advertised the cafe, looking for partners and investors. Areg Maghakian, who lived in Armenia at the time, reached out to collaborate with DeSantis after seeing his website, looking to transform their idea into reality. 

“We started building that relationship and decided that instead of independently trying to compete with each other, we would partner and go about this together,” said DeSantis.

Their plan was high-risk. “Neither myself nor my partner had ever done anything like (owning a business) before,” said DeSantis. “It was a new concept at the time, so there was a lot of opportunity to fail.” 

At first, they built their relationship through Skype, and a year before they opened, Maghakian moved back to the Bay Area. That is when they started to look for locations, at first in the South Bay around San Jose, then in San Francisco. “We didn’t find the right combination of foot traffic, location, size, and price in any of those places,” said DeSantis. Soon thereafter, they crossed the bridge and realized that Berkeley was the spot, quickly buying the current location at 1797 Shattuck Ave. “Because of the university, there was a nice mixture of urban but not too urban, good foot traffic, and parking is not completely miserable like it would be if you were in San Francisco,” said DeSantis. 

This location was previously also a cafe, so it was easy for them to convert the space into their dream. DeSantis explained the feeling as he stood in the cafe before opening day. “Seeing the space that had just been an idea in my mind a couple of years earlier … becoming an actual business open to the public the following day was a pretty cool moment,” DeSantis said. After opening with 50 seats, they realized they needed more space, and in 2017, they expanded to the leasing office next door. After COVID-19, they added a street-adjacent parklet with more outdoor seating, reaching about 250 seats. 

They now have an expansive menu with pizza, sandwiches with homemade potato chips, coffee, and pastries. Attendees can pay an $8 dollar gaming fee to have access to around 800 on-site board games. They host daily events and also have a Discord channel where players can connect about upcoming events or games they have played.

“We’ve created a really great community space, and it’s not just for gamers,” said DeSantis. The cafe also hosts students studying or working on their laptops. “It’s great to see some of these effects of the cafe that we didn’t even think about,” continued DeSantis.

The cafe has been hosting Berkeley High School students and staff since it opened. Aaron Glimme, a chemistry teacher at BHS, likes playing Magic: The Gathering at the cafe. He likes the in-person energy, especially because it is difficult to play many games in digital spaces. “Board games can be very expensive, and they have all the board games you could ever want to play. It’s really nice to be able to go there for a low cost instead of having to buy the game. Certainly, people can try it out and then buy it,” said Glimme. 

Elan Davis, a BHS junior, went as a kid. He fondly remembers the walks after school to the cafe, looking forward to time with his family. “I do feel as if I’ve grown out of it a little bit, which is sad, but not necessarily,” Davis said, “(Going back) would be nice, wholesome, and a way to reconnect with my childhood.”

The cafe has now been open for nine years, and the owners are starting to see the legacy of the cafe have an effect on people’s lives: one of their early customers is now their manager, and DeSantis knows a couple who had their first date at the cafe and then got married, coming back for their anniversaries. “There’s definitely a lot of history around the cafe,” he said.