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Lodi High School graduate Ethan Bennett starts new board game rental business

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Posted: Friday, November 29, 2013 9:25 am

Buying a brand new board game could cost you over $40. What if you could just borrow your favorites when you wanted them, and get a promise that all the pieces were inside?

A former Woodbridge resident has started what he’s calling the Netflix of board games. It goes by the name GameShack, and its owners hope their venture will bring game night back into family life.

“We were looking to start our own business, and we wanted something unique and out of the ordinary,” said Ethan Bennett, a Lodi High School graduate.

Bennett and Whitney Henderson live in Tahoe City, where they pick up what work they can at the ski resorts. But they noticed when people come to Tahoe, they look for some way to entertain their kids and families at the hotel or at that lodge. Board games are a popular solution.

Henderson, who is originally from Michigan, thought of creating a local board game delivery service for the Tahoe area. After some research, the pair would be a better fit to offer the games as a mail-order service.

The idea is simple. Members make an account at www.gameshackrentals.com, select a few game titles, and the games are sent off in a day or so. They can keep two at a time for a month or more, depending on their membership package. A prepaid label is sent with the game so the items can be returned with ease. Memberships range from $13.99 to $34.99 a month.

Since the business opened in July, Bennett and Henderson have collected more than 300 titles of board games like “Risk,” “Monopoly,” “Jenga” and others. They scour Craigslist, online sales and garage sales for new or gently used games, and even collect the more beat-up versions to hoard spare dice, game pieces and other accessories.

All those games are tidily packed away into their home on an extensive series of shelving units. Each day includes printing lots of shipping labels and at least one run back and forth from the post office. Shipping games with many pieces can be a challenge. Bennett keeps extra copies of game instructions laminated and filed in case the originals are damaged.

Customers are shocked at the number of board game titles and versions available, said Bennett.

The business is aimed at families, and getting kids to put down their iPods and video games for a few hours.

Bennett remembers playing competitive rounds of “Monopoly” with his sister while growing up.

“She’d get frustrated, sell me all her property and later regret it,” said Bennett. “We liked the really simple games too, the ones you can play for hours and hours.”

The challenge in running this mail-order board game rental venture is customer trust.

“Being a new business, there are no other companies like us. The idea is new to people,” he said.

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