By Julie Catalano :: Photography courtesy of the Billiard Factory
Ryan Stick wants to bring families together over a good game of billiards — or air hockey, foosball, shuffleboard or anything else that he says many customers want: “To get the kids away from video games or sitting in front of the television, even for a little while.”
Stick and his brother Tony are co-owners of the Billiard Factory, a homegrown Texas business that started out in 1975 as a single location in Houston and is now one of the largest billiards and game room furniture retailers in the country. As the second generation, the brothers carry on the family business with more than 100 employees in 15 retail stores, including Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, along with locations in Florida and Las Vegas.
Customers are drawn to the company’s family-friendly philosophy and visit the Billiard Factory showrooms looking for ways to make home more fun — mostly to keep their kids a little closer to it.
“The lion’s share of our customers,” explains Stick, “have a room in their house that’s either a game room or could become one. They have children approaching their teenage years, and the parents are looking for something that will keep the family together versus wondering where their children are going to be spending evenings and weekends.” The goal, he says, is “to create an environment that will get their kids excited about having their friends over and keeping the party at their house.”
There is plenty to be excited about at the Billiard Factory, with hundreds of inspiring items to create the ultimate game room experience for players of all ages. Rooms can be as simple or as elaborate as needed, with pool tables, game tables, arcade games, home theater seating and accessories in price ranges for everyone.
“Pool tables are definitely our number one seller,” says Stick, “with shuffleboard tables gaining fast, as multigenerational play increases in popularity.”
The majority of the pool tables are all wood — maple and oak the most popular — along with some that contain laminates. Quality is a priority, and a longtime family tradition. “We’ve been doing this for 40 years and we’re not going to put a product on the floor that we don’t think will last,” says Stick. This extends to delivery and installation, where for an additional fee a crew will expertly set up the tables.
Game rooms start with the games, of course, but don’t end there. “Seating is really important,” says Stick, especially with pool tables, where a couch won’t work. “You need higher chairs to watch the game,” he says, along with pub tables to enjoy drinks or snacks. To expand the gaming experience, Stick encourages buyers to add a television, sound system and “maybe another side game like foosball, darts or air hockey.”
A space-saving way to add another game is with a ping pong tabletop that fits on top of the pool table. For about $300, the tabletop option provides a cost effective two-games-in-one feature for those with no room for a full size ping pong table. “It has a rubber backing so it doesn’t scratch or move around,” says Stick. A dining top can also be added for a pool table to do double duty as a dining table.
Planning is the key to a successful game room, says Stick. “On our website we have a program where people can design their game rooms and plug in different pieces like a pool table and seating.” In addition to the virtual room planner, the site also provides buying guides for pool tables and bar seating.
Convenient packages also make the shopping experience easy, by putting together a billiard table and accessory kit including pool cues, billiard balls, racks and chalk for around $3,000. “It’s a nice way to fill a room at a relatively inexpensive price,” says Stick.
For the ultimate in pool tables, the Masterpiece Collection boasts elaborate design, construction, embellishments and premium materials, many of them from Italy, says Stick, with prices to match. “Those are really heirloom pieces that will likely get passed on from generation to generation.”
But for the Billiard Factory, it all comes back to the average family looking for ways to spend more time together in an often hectic world. Stick frequently gets rewarding feedback and remembers one especially emotional call to the San Antonio store from a grateful customer. “A lady called to compliment us on our installation, and then went on to say how she came home one night to see her children with their grandfather in the converted dining room that was now a game room. She was almost in tears explaining how good it made her feel.” Stick shared the feeling. “Getting families and friends together and providing a place in the home for people to enjoy time together. That’s really what we’re all about.”