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Rainy Day Games provides fun for people of all ages, abilities

(Jennifer Priest Mitchell is a writer who lives in Beaverton. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

Board games have come a long way, Baby. If you were raised on Risk and Monopoly, like me, and a whole lot of other 40-somethings, you better check out Rainy Day Games to find a cool, new activity for your family to enjoy on game night. The little cardboard box holds a lot more in the way of rules, excitement and meaning these days than it did a few decades ago. And that does not mean the games require more time to play - it merely means games today are more varied, and have more options as far as the outcome and strategies to get there.

Steve Ellis, co-owner and co-founder of Aloha's Rainy Day Games store explained, 'We carry a lot of unusual, unique games. If you're looking for nicer games, quality games, you are not going to find these at the big chain stores.'

Ellis knows games. And he knows his ever-growing clientele. He went on to say, 'There are not a lot of stores like us around. We do not carry video games - we do not really want to carry video games. We specialize in board games, not the traditional Monopoly type of game, we offer a lot more than that.' And they do.

Ticket to Ride, which has several different versions, is a board game that children and adults alike enjoy. In fact, Ellis says it is one of his 12-year-old daughter's favorite tabletop games, and that is why he loves to play it so much. The board unfolds to an attractive map of the U.S. with key cities marked. By drawing cards and placing small train cars on established tracks, you create paths to reach various destinations and earn points. The game includes math and geography components, does not take hours to finish, and has varied outcomes, as well as the chance for the players to each decide which paths they wish to follow.

Another unusual, popular game Ellis shared with me was Hacianda, which involves bringing livestock to various markets and again piques players' interest with a lot of variables,

'My business partner and I actually opened the store nine years ago, and we moved to this location [on TV Highway in Beaverton] six years ago. We were both working in high tech and we had never even worked in retail before. We got this idea to open the store and we are both engineers and we got a lot of systems in place to make it work. For the first two years, we put all the profits back into the store. Those high tech jobs were a great starting place for us,' he said with a smile.

Ellis and his business partner Jeff Abramson met more than a decade ago at a comic store in Portland. They belonged to a gaming group there and would meet to play games. When the store announced plans to close, the two considered buying it to keep it going. Then they decided they could do better. And they have.

Rainy Day Games is a hangout for teens as well as adults, not just a place to buy a special game for your family or for a birthday gift. The store has somewhat of a hands-on gaming museum in the back, with plenty of tables and chairs and actually offers visitors the chance to play many of the games they carry. They also offer a number of planned activities on the monthly calendar, including open play times, as well as leagues and tournaments.

With the advent of computer games, as well as the growing number of television channels available today and the fact that Target, Toys 'R Us and other chain stores carry many games at low cost, one has to wonder about the success of a store like Rainy Day Games. Ellis spoke of that in his quiet, pensive tone,

'Well, board games are different than video games and watching television or movies,' he said. 'Board games are interactive and a good way for kids to get to know one another and for families to sit down and do something together where they are actually talking. And as far as the bigger stores go, we do not carry the same things that they do, so they are not our competition. They have their place and people go there for certain things, but we just do not have those themed games or less expensive games that people may buy only because of the theme and not for the value of play. Our games are a little more unusual and better made, frankly. Many of them come from Germany where the little wooden pieces are handmade and where better materials are used for the board. The directions are simple and accessible, yet printed on high quality paper with colors and graphics. These are games you keep and your family plays again and again.'

Ellis runs Rainy Day Games with his business partner, his wife, and three other employees. He and Abramson, who actually still works in the high tech industry when he is not at Rainy Day Games, have both worked for or with Japanese companies in the past, and they have brought some of the philosophies of those companies to their current work.

'We also like to be a part of the community - we support schools, and we provide a place where kids can come and hang out. We have a lot of young people coming in to spend time here, especially in the summer, and we love that,' Ellis said.

He and his partner have also set up their store in a unique way as far as small stores like this go - they focus a great deal on long-term plans and how best to make money and save money in the long run, while continuing to offer customers the best quality games and experience in the store. A native of the Midwest, Ellis originally came to Oregon for his job. His high tech career actually laid a terrific foundation for running the business. Though he left his desk job to pursue this venture with a great deal of enthusiasm, he confessed that there were times when he missed working for a company and being the go-to person who had the answers people wanted. Now, though, he has made a real name for himself and for the store in this line of work - though his mild-mannered ways fail to boast his success.

'I'm just having fun - this is the most fun I've ever had,' he recently said.

Ellis is still part of a gaming group that meets weekly and plays various board games together. He is also a regular contributor to publications whose readers are other store owners in the industry, and he is a game reviewer, who receives select board games before they are available to the public.

For more information about Rainy Day Games, visit the Web site www.rainy-day-games.com, or call 503-642-4100.