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Features WNC resident finds niche market in favorite hobby

A set of Georgia theme boards constructed by BKL Boards.While he was in college, Western North Carolina resident Nathan Lowe would often play cornhole with his friends. During tailgates or cookouts, friends would hold fun competitions for the lawn game in which players take turns throwing bags at a raised platform with a hole in the far end. To determine the winner in a cornhole match, a bag that reaches the hole scores three points, while a bag on the platform scores one point. Players continue throwing the bags until a two-person team reaches the score of 21.

“I never thought just by playing cornhole that I'd one day run my own cornhole business,” said Lowe. “But that all changed when I began organizing one weekly tournament a week, not for any money but just for fun with my friends.”

Lowe, who previously worked at the Franklin Fastenal office, ran his very first cornhole tournament for an organization in September 2012 for Big Brothers, Big Sisters. “That was all volunteer work and I really loved being able to take something fun that I loved and help a great organization raise money.” said Lowe.

BKL Boards customizes cornhole boards for individuals, businesses and charities.As more interest in the sport began to generate, Lowe started running tournaments not just for local charities, but individuals and businesses would pay him to organize events for cash prizes. “Now, I run tournaments for my business, Blue Ridge Cornhole, as well as volunteering my time, effort, cornhole boards, bags and all,” he explained. “I've run tournaments for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Haywood County, Relay for Life, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Cherokee County (Murphy), March of Dimes Buncombe and Haywood, Cystic Fibrosis Awareness, K.A.R.E. House of Waynesville, and The Tye Blanton Foundation, just to name a few of the organizations I've helped raise money and awareness by helping host cornhole tournaments.”

Lowe provided the Macon County chapter of March of Dimes with cornhole boards during its annual March for Babies walk last month. Last week, Lowe organized and headed a cornhole tournament for the Cindy Crane Cancer Fund at the Macon County Community Building.

BKL Boards and Blue Ridge Cornhole keep a focus of the business on helping local charities.“I've been asked by many organizations, companies, restaurants and more to help run tournaments or get more people to their business,” Lowe said. “It's something that I love to do. I run tournaments three to four nights a week at different locations such as restaurants, bars, clubs, lodges. It helps draw more and more people in on a weekly basis to these certain places.”

Businesses and organizations work with Blue Ridge Cornhole to hold special events and encourage more people to turn out. Lowe provides boards, bags, score keeping, planning, and promoting the events through his social media pages.

“I already have many sets of boards, bags, scoreboards, and a PA system,” he explained. "A system makes it much easier to ask someone like myself to come in and just set things up without these organizations having to stress about doing something that they have never done before. I also have a large following of groups of people that keep up with me and my events so that they don't have to visit multiple sites to find out what is going on and where. They just have to go to my facebook page to see where I'm at for the week.”

To Lowe, it's about more than just running a business. He enjoys providing an activity for people of all ages to participate in. “I love to help grow the 'addiction' of cornhole and the fun competitive atmosphere that it provides,” he said. “What's awesome about cornhole is that one game I can meet the coolest eight-yearold who can beat almost anyone and even at the same event I can meet guys who are close to 80 years of age who get out of the house just to enjoy the company of others and get some exercise while tossing a few bags.”

After starting Blue Ridge Cornhole, Lowe found an additional business opportunity in the selling of customized cornhole boards. “Whenever I started hosting large tournaments, I knew that I was going to have to have good boards that were quality made, that were consistent and boards that nobody was going to complain about,” said Lowe. “After a few calls, and talking with my dad, Randy, we decided to give it a shot in making a few sets of boards that were ‘thick’ and nice looking. We had to make a couple tweaks, but we finally came up with a product that looked a little different from other local companies as well as national board makers.”

Lowe and his dad then started the family-owned specialty store, BKL Boards. “We take pride in our boards and it shows with the care that we put into the thickness of the wood that we use all the way down to the detail of the paint lines,” said Lowe. “Our boards range anywhere from $120- $200 depending on what exactly the customer wants and needs. We will customize the boards however the customer would like them, whether it be an odd design to a wrap that covers the entire board.”

After beginning his business to help local charitable organizations, Lowe found the creation of BKL Boards as an additional opportunity to give back to the community. “BKL Boards and Blue Ridge Cornhole have donated boards for raffle to the Tye Blanton Foundation as well as The March of Dimes,” said Lowe. "We are in the process of building a Breast Cancer Awareness set so that we can raffle them off and donate the money to a cancer fund/patient/research of choice. We are also proud sponsors of the March of Dimes.”

For more information about Blue Ridge Cornhole or BKL Boards, "like" their pages on facebook or contact Nathan Lowe at (828)734-6692.

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