“Nathan is one of the best players in the area these days,” his father said, smiling. “But, at that graduation party five years ago, he hadn’t ever played before. He tried to beat me for months after that and never did. And now, I can’t hardly beat him.”
Practice makes perfect
And in the five years since that first game, Nathan played cornhole anytime, anywhere. That love for competition and camaraderie molded itself into Blue Ridge Cornhole. Founded last year by Nathan, the Waynesville-based company specializes in putting together tournaments around the region for businesses, organizations and charities.
“I’ve played against 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds that are amazing at cornhole,” Nathan said. “It’s a game anybody can play and enjoy.”
Nathan put together his first tournaments in the fall of 2012 at BearWaters Brewing Company in Waynesville. Initially, a handful of teams showed up, but the numbers grew each week. He was then asked to put on a cornhole event for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Haywood County. The tournament was a success, with Nathan soon seeing the potential for giving back to the community through his competitions.
“It’s an easy way to raise money for good causes,” he said. “People come out, have a good time, support local businesses and support local charities and organizations.”
For his second tournament, Nathan did an event for the Tye Blanton Foundation. Founded in 2009, the nonprofit provides assistance to families of premature infants. Tye was the late son of slain North Carolina State Trooper Shawn Blanton and his wife Michaela. Now remarried to Nathan, Michaela has spearheaded numerous fundraisers and public awareness campaigns for the foundation.
“Everybody has kids, and once you have a kid you realize the things people go through, the time and money spent in unfamiliar places [like hospitals],” Nathan said. “So, with these cornhole tournaments, it’s nice to help out on a different level.”
During the winter, Nathan averages three tournaments a week. Mondays, he’s at the Showtime Saloon (Asheville); Tuesdays, it’s the Canton Armory; Wednesdays are spent at the Asheville Moose Lodge. When the weather warms up and summer rolls around, he might be holding competitions seven nights a week.
“I just love watching people that have never played before start playing,” he said. “They’ll start out not very good, but then a month or two later, they’re competing for first place in our tournaments.”
Building the dream
Alongside Blue Ridge Cornhole is BKL Boards. Named after 2-year-old Brindley Khaine Lowe (Michaela and Nathan’s daughter), the side business is where Randy comes into play. With a wood-crafting background, Randy currently works for Jacob Holm Industries in Candler. And as Nathan put on the tournaments, the father/son duo decided it would be a good idea to construct and play on their own board, something that lends itself to consistency and accuracy when playing by American Cornhole Association regulations.
“I just enjoy working with wood, and when Nathan started Blue Ridge Cornhole, I made him some board sets to start with,” Randy said. “We’re always learning new ways to change and improve our boards.”
Made from three-quarter inch plywood and full two-by-four boards, the ACA-certified boards consist of birch wood and cabinet-grade pine. Prices range from $100 to $200, depending on the customization of the order. Since the two started building boards this past June, they’ve constructed more than 100 sets for cornhole enthusiasts around Western North Carolina.
“I really enjoy the reactions from people when they see their boards for the first time,” Randy said. “They’re always amazed at the way they look, the painting, how good they are.”
But, through it all, Randy looks at the time together with his son in their workshop as the real success of the business.
“Before, we’d talk on the phone daily and have great conversations,” Randy said. “But now, we’re hanging out every day, always talking about life, cornhole and such. I go and play in a lot of the tournaments, too.”
While 2013 was a great year, 2014 looks to be even more bountiful for Blue Ridge Cornhole and BKL Boards. The orders keep coming in, with more local and regional tournaments emerging as winter turns to spring and summer looms just ahead.
“It’s going to be a busy year, and we’re really looking forward to helping work with more organizations and charities,” Nathan said. “Everybody would like to have their own business and be successful, and that’s what we’re hoping to aim towards.”
Want to know more?
For more information on Blue Ridge Cornhole and their weekly tournaments, click on www.blueridgecornhole.com. To learn more about BKL Boards, go to www.bklboards.com. Both companies can be found on Facebook.