5IVE STRAIGHT :: ENJOYED SINCE 1968!
In 1968 Ted Thomas copyrighted a board game he named 5ive Straight. In November of 1970 Ted Thomas, George Davies and Woody Keys, decided to form a partnership. After 1 ½ years Woody Keys let the other two men buy him out. The business became a corporation in 1973 and was called Stillmore Products. As the business began to grow in 1975, George Davies bought out Ted Thomas. Stillmore Products had been run by the Davies family out of their home in Tarzana, CA until the game was sold to Davies Granddaughter, Randee Whitmore, in 2000.
The first step was to decide how to make the game. It was strategy board game involving cards and pegs. The board was made out of 11” x 11” particle board, drilled with 100 holes, and stained in black. The numbers 1-100 would then be silk screened next to the correct holes. A printer in San Diego manufactured the playing cards, and the pegs were purchased from the Lite Brite Company. The men and their families went to work making boards, collating cards, bagging pegs, and wrapping boxes until 30 games were ready to be sold. Changes to the product would be made over the years including molds to produce the playing board and pegs in plastic.
After the original 30 games were made, George and his wife, Lorraine, took a trip to Minnesota for a large family reunion, where they not only sold every one of the original 30 games, but came back with orders for more. Word of mouth was spreading about 5ive Straight in Minnesota and orders began to come in from family and friends. Suddenly Stillmore Products began to get inquires from strangers, including game sales representatives. A woman who managed Game Keepers, a large retail game store chain in California, played the game and liked it so well she placed orders to carry it in 4 of the 5 Game Keepers stores. In the year 1999 5ive Straight was named as one of the top 100 games sold in the United States.
The business has always been family owned and operated. With the death of his wife, Lorraine, in 1990, George Davies became a one-man operation, taking care of assembly, order-taking, shipping, accounting, silk screening game boards, bagging pegs, and assembling boxes, occasionally with help of a few friends.
Most of the sales came from Minnesota, where the very first games were sold with the next biggest market being
California. However Stillmore Products was receiving orders from all over the country as well as from countries as far away as Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and Norway.
Granddaughter Randee Whitmore
In the year 2000 George Davies sold 5ive Straight to his granddaughter Randee Whitmore. Randee and her husband Tim figured it would be a business they could operate from their home part-time and she could still be with their 6 month old daughter, Rachel. They moved the game production from Tarzana, CA to their home in Simi Valley, CA.
Randee and Tim immediately decided to update the games appearance to make it more marketable. They went to game stores and looked at what other game manufacturers were doing to get some ideas. They picked out new colors for the new game box based on what they thought stood out. They even posed for the pictures that are on the back of the box…one with some kids they hired so they could do a family shoot, and one with some friends. They revamped the packaging so that the new box would be able to stand up on its side and could be displayed on the store shelves easily.
They never attempted to sell the game to big chain stores like Target or Walmart because they weren’t ready to step up production to that level. They wanted to keep the production manageable so it didn’t turn in to a full-time job. They didn’t have the space to keep much inventory on hand. Their strategy was to keep the game unique, something you couldn’t find at a chain store, and many of their wholesale customers commented that they liked to stock it for that very reason.
Assembly was very labor intensive. They would assemble 300 to 500 games at a time. They had to bag pegs which involved pilling loose pegs on a table and using a wooden peg sorter to capture 42 pegs at a time (a bag of yellow, a bag of pink and a bag of green with 42 pegs per bag). They would dump the pegs in front of them and scoop them up and put them in a bag. They had to then stamp little envelopes with board clip instructions and put two board clips in to each envelope. The next process required silk screening the black plastic game boards. The game boards were clipped together, wiped off with a tack cloth and placed in the silk screen where one person would squeegee over the screen to spread the white paint on to the board. The board then would go through a drying process which would take approximately ½ hour. Finally the game boards, playing cards, pegs, clips and instructions were assembled in the box and the box would be shrink wrapped.
Game Pulled from the Market
In 2005 their third child was born and it became increasingly difficult to keep up on the work. Randee had become basically a one-person operation just like her Grandfather. Tim didn’t want to continue with the game…he already had a full time job and didn’t want to spend weekends making games. Randee was exhausted with their 3 small children and didn’t have the energy to be working on a business as well. They decided to keep the game sales going until they ran out of any one component. The game boards were the first thing they ran out of and in 2008 they made their final sale.
Game Back On the Market
The very first time my wife, Pam, and I played the game was in 1989 with our friends on a ski trip in Winter Park, Colorado. We were hooked immediately. This game had it all, strategy, excitement and fun. It is a game you can play with two or three players or great fun with two or three teams. In 2010 I was having a conversation with a friend of ours who bought the game in quantity. He supplied all of us with new games as needed. Every year he would host 5ive Straight parties at his house. The traveling trophy went home with the winning team. We were discussing the fact that the game was no longer available and that I should connect with the previous owner to see if they would be willing to sell the rights to the game. 5ive Straight has a register trademark so I called the US Patent and Trademark Department and found that Randee Whitmore was the owner of the game. Randee Whitmore and I came to terms, and now 5 Straight Products, Inc. is the games owner. The production of the game will be automated. The days of bagging pegs and silk screening boards manually are over. The game will remain the same. We look forward to making this strategy board game available for many years to come.
Larry & Pam Collins
5 Straight Products, Inc.