Merry Vediner has rows of games for sale in the Funagain retail store in Ashland or on their retail web site. pennell photo - Bob Pennell

HomeGrown: A serious belief in playing games

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? We sell board and card games through a retail store and on the Internet. We have more than 4,500 titles and we're easily the largest independent company when it comes to selection in the country. The business has been there for just about 11 years, starting out as a used-game store.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I've been here since the end of 1986 and moved here from Juneau, Alaska.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? We were invited to a game night and we were only familiar with Monopoly. The original owner, Rick Soued, kept inviting my husband, Mike, and I, and he finally said he would open a great bottle of wine if we came, so we did. The first game we played was a German game called Carcassonne. We played, it took 10 minutes to learn and 40 minutes to play. It was a whole new game mechanism. We assumed all games meant rolling dice, passing Go and took three hours. We didn't know there could be a game unfold in front of you as you played; everything was new and different and encouraged conversation.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I would have emphasized good communication more from the beginning. We found that clear and constant communication with no gaps is necessary. We learned when e-mail doesn't get answered or phone calls aren't returned that it creates unnecessary difficulties. When people don't stay in clear communication every day that can happen. Everybody, whether on site or people in the background, needs to be kept in the loop.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? Laying people off. I have to be very clear that it's the right decision. We can have more than 20 people working over the holidays, but that's temporary work and I have to be clear about that. We get a great cast of people that show up. It's as close as I ever get to working in Santa's Workshop. We know if people open games and take the time to play them, they'll have a great experience.

Who are your competitors? Any online board and card-game sellers. What we sell you can't find at regular retail stores. Occasionally there will be a breakthrough game like Apples to Apples that Target will pick up and they'll print thousands and thousands. Most of the designers go to a much smaller market.

What are your goals? Our sales are $1.5-plus million, but the sky is the limit. Every sale means someone is giving a game a try. We really believe in what we offer. I don't think we need more than one storefront. There are game stores in other towns and I have no need to compete with them. We can offer an unlimited number of titles. Anything that's produced and we're interested in, we'll carry. Every day we're contacted by people who design games, have played something they want us to know about, or are looking for games out of print. There are all kinds of different directions you can go with this. All these requests are via e-mail.

What training or education did you need? I have a degree in history from Southern Oregon University. That's been helpful because a lot of the games are based on historical activity, a battle or something. This isn't my first business. I have a designing, needlework, cross-stitch and tapestries business. My design work goes into patterns. I've been doing that for almost 30 years.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Keep your day job so you can allow your business to go through all the baby steps it needs so you don't ask more of it than you need. That allows you to make good decisions. Know your competitors, look at what's out there and see if you have something that's not being offered.

To suggest an idea for this column, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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