An ace in the hole

Some of the most interesting business ideas are born with the help of a few beers. For one local entrepreneur, that also included a few wooden boards and some corn bags.

Some of the most interesting business ideas are born with the help of a few beers. For one local entrepreneur, that also included a few wooden boards and some corn bags.

Last year, James Rastberger invested $3,000 to start Richmond Cornhole to host organized leagues and tournaments and provide cornhole equipment to people who want take the game beyond their backyards.

Cornhole – often seen being played on Monument Avenue by shirtless competitors holding beer cans – is typically played outside and requires players to take turns throwing bags filled with feed corn into a raised wooden platform that has a hole at the end. Points are awarded for making it into the hole or close to it. The first player to reach 21 points wins.

Richmond Cornhole operates three weekly leagues and hosts one tournament a month at local bars and restaurants. Rastberger said business is starting to pick up now that summer is getting closer. The company made about $12,000 in 2010.

“I get a lot of regulars that have become friends that help me break down and set up,” he said.

Cornhole is not the only social sport business in Richmond. River City Sports and Social Club has been running kickball and dodgeball leagues for more than six years. That company does not have a cornhole league.

Rastberger, 33, caught the cornhole bug in Florida.

He’s from Richmond but moved to Tampa in 2004 for five years with his wife to work in advertising.

In 2009, he moved back to Richmond and took a job as a media consultant at Supermedia, a small advertising and marketing firm. Although advertising was his full-time gig, Rastberger still wanted to do something with cornhole.

“When I got back, I started researching and I couldn’t find anyone that was doing the leagues and tournaments,” he said.

That winter, Rastberger started tossing around the idea of launching his own cornhole operation.

And in February, he reached out to Hat Factory and got the nightclub to agree to host the first cornhole tournament.

“It brought them a good drinking crowd,” Rastberger said.

The three weekly leagues consist of about 12 teams per league. Each team has two players, and the season is six games. Local bars host the tournaments. Rastberger said they regularly play at Sharky’s in Innsbrook, BlackFinn and Fishbowl Bistro in Shockoe Bottom.

The place hosting a tournament gives about $400 worth of prizes that pay out to the top three teams.

“In return they’re getting eight to 16 teams in their establishment for at least two hours every week,” Rastberger said.

Most of the revenue comes from a portion of the entry fees: $40 per team and $20 for each tournament. Besides the tournaments and leagues, Rastberger also sells bags, boards, score towers and other equipment for the game.

Rastberger said that although it’s a competitive organized sport, his leagues are for everyone.

“People hear of the league and tournaments and think it’s only for the super competitive,” he said. “It’s all about having a good time.”

Depending on the success of the summer leagues, Rastberger said he’s also planning to organize some fall leagues and expand to Southside and Mechanicsville for tournaments.

“We’re open to holding more league nights at other places,” Rastberger said. “If the bars are happy, then we’ll continue to do it.”

By Amy David

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