How a nerdy gastropub in downtown Biloxi found immediate success and loyal customers

In a little more than nine months of operation, the owners of the Wayward Kraken are both humbled and overwhelmed by the success of their business on Howard Avenue.

“We just never left the honeymoon period on the business side,” said co-owner LB Wilson III. “When tourism season ended, everyone took the hit, but we’ve only been under our target numbers less than a day a month since we’ve opened.”

So what is their secret to success?

“I think a lot of our success has to do with seeing a thing that was utterly unserved and serving it,” Wilson said. “Wouldn’t it be cool if dorks had a place to hang out?”

For those who have yet to visit the gastropub located where Ole Biloxi Schooner once stood, the Wayward Kraken aims to cater to every range of nerd, geek and fan.

Before even entering, flags from prominent families in the “Game of Thrones” HBO show hang over the doorway. Areas inside the pub nod to franchises such as Harry Potter and “Lord of the Rings,” with the main dining area referred to as The Great Hall. The walls are decorated with pieces from “Star Wars,” Marvel and DC comics, classic Nintendo video games and more.

Wilson said they have a specific demographic that normal nightlife doesn’t cater to. “If you want to be a nerd with your nerd friends and have the kind of nightlife bar experience everybody else in the world has, you have to do it at your house.”

Unique entertainment

Something else that makes Wayward Kraken unique is that most guests create their own entertainment.

“Our elevator speech in 2016 when we were raising money and talking to investors was to ask how many times have you gone to a bar to watch somebody else to do something?”

Most bars offer live music or a televised sporting event to draw crowds.

“There’s nothing wrong with that, but here you get to do stuff, whether it’s board games or video games or a silly event we’re doing and, we’re pretty happy about that, so I think that has a lot to do with the growth,” Wilson said.

Customers can not only enjoy Mississippi beers on tap or co-owner Canonblue Lalley’s culinary creations, they can also play board games, video games and table-top games. Board games can be rented for a nominal fee, or guests can bring in their own games to enjoy the atmosphere.

“My menu is very different than everyone else on the block,” Lalley said. “We wanted something that was easily edible so you can pick it up while you’re playing board games or rolling dice but also quality fresh ingredients.”

“We didn’t just want pub fare where it’s everything fried,” Wilson added. “We try to step the food up above a bar but below a knife and fork restaurant.”

Disney Trivia? Yes, please

Wayward Kraken also hosts events throughout the week, such instructional sessions on how to play popular table-top games like Dungeons and Dragons or Warhammer 40. One of their most popular events is the weekly trivia night with rotating themes.

“We wanted to make trivia stand out in some way and get real competitive about it,” Wilson said. “If you win trivia here, someone would have to beat you on your topic. We allow for winning teams to pick the topic for next week’s trivia, so to be the best you have to beat the best. However, we do a general knowledge reset every three weeks to keep it from getting super narrowed down and specific.”

Past themes have included Disney, Tim Burton films and zombies.

Wilson and Lalley continue to branch out to keep the business a success, whether it’s adding new items to the menu, rotating specials, or creating new events such as Zombie Prom to celebrate Halloween. However, the success might be attributed to the passion the co-owners have for their business.

‘They are digging us, and we dig them’

“We both had stable, good careers before this, so it wasn’t like we needed to find something to do,” Lalley said. “It’s definitely been a labor of love.”

“What we do here is such a specific niche that if you weren’t genuine about it, it would be so superficial and fake that it wouldn’t work if you didn’t genuinely love this stuff,” Wilson said. “Everyone in here would feel it because the people in here genuinely love it.”

Since opening, Lalley has been able to track the clientele through credit card transactions, and 60 percent are returning customers. So whatever they’re doing seems to be working.

“It has been kind of overwhelming and humbling because when we opened we didn’t know if this was going to be a hit, we didn’t know if this was going to be a pipe dream, but at this point the community has spoken,” Lalley said. “They are digging us, and we dig them, and we’re grateful for them.”

Yolanda Cruz: 228-896-2340, @yolie.cruz93