Call it cornhole, baggo or bean bag toss. The bags game has turned into big business for one Naperville man.
Chris Johnson of Naperville Bags is a carpenter and cabinet maker who started making bags sets for himself and his friends in his southeast Naperville home. When he launched his website in 2008, he considered it a hobby.
But the game picked up in popularity at just the right time.
"With our economy the way it is, with people not spending a lot of money on their homes, the carpentry and cabinet-making business was hurting," Johnson said. "We got more orders for boards, and we couldn't make time for both, so we started to shift into making the boards full time."
It's an old game that has new devotees. According to Baggo.com, the game of bags featuring wooden boards emerged around 1948 but regained popularity in the late 1990s.
"Everywhere you go, it's there," Johnson said. "You go to festivals and there's a tournament. You go to games and there's one in the tailgate area, or at family get-togethers and block parties."
Now there's an American Cornhole Association that boasts 30,000 members aiming to standardize the game's equipment and rules. A typical game involves two boards, eight bags and two to four players. Players get three points for tossing a bag into the hole on the opposite board, and two points for landing a bag on the board. The winner is whoever scores 21 points first.
Naperville Bags is busy renting equipment for parties and tournaments year-round, especially from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Sets of boards and bags also are popular Father's Day gifts, Johnson said. Classic sets start at $95, and he can customize boards with a logo or photo and drink holders.
Josh McBroom, a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Naperville, organizes an annual charity bags tournament. He said that when he and his colleagues were looking for equipment, everyone they asked referred him to Naperville Bags. He ordered three sets silk-screened with the Edward Jones logo.
Some Naperville Bags customers are serious players who buy replacement bags because they've worn out their original sets.
Mike Gebbia of Bolingbrook plays bags every Tuesday night and has played in leagues and tournaments for about three years. He ordered bags and boards from Naperville Bags after playing in a tournament Johnson had organized.
"He really pays attention to detail," Gebbia said. "He finishes everything himself. He just does a good job."
Johnson said he plays bags with some of the best around, and he has a technique.
"The flat bag toss," he said. "Anybody that's going to be competitive in the game is going to have to throw a nice flat bag."
Naperville Bags ships nationwide and can provide for local pickup by appointment only. Visit www.napervillebags.com.