We love finding small businesses that genuinely care about their customers and are passionate about their craft—businesses like Bandpass Design. A company that specializes in furniture for board games, Bandpass consists of three woodshop workers turned business owners who build modular furniture in modern styles for hobbies they love.
One of the co-owners, Garrett Tomblingson, told us about his business, shared the story of how we found each other, and answered all our burning board game questions.
Real Estate Gals: How did you meet Johnine?
Garrett Tomblingson: My partner Mikey and I met Johnine through our good friend Cherri Trusheim, owner of Urban Animal. Cherri and I went into the woodworking program at Seattle Central Community College at the same time and became friends just as she was working with Johnine to sell a house in a Columbia City and buy one in Beacon Hill.
We’re real glad we met Johnine. She was great to work with. We were surprised by all the legwork she did on our behalf, and she was a real pleasure to interact with.
REGals: In your own house, do you think of it as the “dining room” or the “board game room”?
GT: I’m not sure the dining room in the modern home is ever just a dining room. For me, it’s usually the mail room, craft room, or ICU for houseplants. Once it was even the room where we shaved my dog during a grueling heat wave. Though it’s always expected to be a room of requirement, at its core, I still want it to be a nice dining room. 99% of the time it’s a hot mess but when family or friends are coming over, I want it to look like I clipped it right out of a CB2 catalog.
We think a lot of folks feel the same way and that’s why we put a lot of effort into making our game tables look and feel like really nice dining tables that look great in just about any home.
REGals: What makes a room a truly great space for playing board games?
GT: For our customers with dedicated rooms to play board games, the space is well lit, has a gaming table at its center, and has board game storage along the walls.
Generally though, a great space for gaming supports both your gaming style and your lifestyle. A gaming room is rare, but living rooms and dining rooms are common, and those too can be great spaces for gaming so long as they can also be great spaces for folks to live their daily lives. A great room for gaming is also a great room to feed the kiddos, help with homework, do your taxes, hem curtains, host a dinner party, play with some legos, wrap presents, or even shave a dog.
REGals: When did you start Bandpass Design, and how has your company evolved?
GT: To our customers, the company has changed little since it was initially formed in Autumn 2017. The first table was made in my garage and shipped to our first customer in January 2018. That table is very similar to the table we shipped most recently. Behind the scenes, there have been loads of changes.
For the first few years, the company was kept afloat by Chris and AJ while they had full-time jobs elsewhere and made gaming tables in their garages on nights and weekends. Eventually, they both worked out of one slightly larger garage. In March 2021 they leased a real shop in Edmonds. I was able to join on as a co-owner and full-time employee in January 2022. Now all three of us work in one well lit, heated space, with bathrooms and stuff.
Next, our shop will grow to support a wider range of woodworking operations so we can test some new ideas and release some new products.
REGals: Could you tell me a little about the people you work with?
GT: Chris, AJ, and I are all skilled and passionate furniture makers with nearly 30 years of combined experience. We met when we all worked for a board game table manufacturer in Everett called Geek Chic. We lost our jobs when it abruptly closed in summer 2017, but after some sad beers and a bonfire fueled by parts from unfinished tables, we agreed that we were still really passionate about the work we did there and that we could make a better product while running a better company.
Outside of furniture-making, our relative abilities to handle work that supports our business are complementary. I can contribute a lot by designing new products and production processes, but I’m not great at finances, procurement, logistics, or shop maintenance. I can trust AJ and Chris to make up for my flaws and vice versa.
GT: We share a love of fantasy and science fiction novels, so we usually look there to spark a little inspiration and find names that are good foci for all the ideas we have at the time of a product’s development.
The Eolian is a music hall in a book by Patrick Rothfuss that brought a lot of characters together, just like a board game collection can. Eolian is also a word that relates to the movement of wind. Our Eolian is made from bamboo plywood, and we felt the word paints a nice picture of bamboo dancing about in the wind.
We named the Dresden when we were broke, unemployed, and scared—but determined to make our own company anyway. Harry Dresden is a character from a series of books written by Jim Butcher who is often broke, unemployed, and scared but determined to save the world anyway. It’s also a nod to two others we were inspired by: Kurt Vonnegut and Gerhard Richter.
Lately we’ve all been listening to a lot of Joe Abercrombie books while we work, so I’m a little concerned about what our next product will be called. Dude’s a little hardcore.
REGals: How long does it take to build the Dresden? How much longer does it take to create the Battleground size v the Standard size?
GT: It takes one person a bit more than a week to build a Dresden to the point that it is ready to ship. The larger tables do take longer, especially the battleground (which also takes up two workbenches during assembly).
Each piece of furniture is made to order so we don’t really operate a production line. It’s just the three of us at three benches making the best table we can, one at a time. Too many compromises have to be made on a production line and flaws or mistakes are too easily compounded. We can’t hit our quality target unless we take our time.
REGals: Do you have plans to expand your product line beyond The Dresden, The Eolian, and their accessories?
GT: Oh yes, we have a lot of cool stuff in the pipeline. We’re sitting on designs for new standalone pieces of furniture as well as designs for entire systems of furniture for both the home and office.
Furniture that can elegantly cover a lot of ground in the home without sacrificing aesthetics or quality will continue to be our focus.
Next week we’re renting a box truck and heading up to Bellingham to pick up some rad new equipment. The shop will be packed full of new toys, and we hope the website will be packed full of new products over the next year or two.
REGals: How has the pandemic affected your business?
GT: We’ve lost a few weeks of production to illness and have dealt with some minor supply chain issues, but overall, we haven’t been nearly so affected as many of our friends and neighbors.
We don’t have data with which to make any firm or sophisticated claims but the pandemic does seem to have increased interest in our product. We set up a Discord server when we started our company, and it has proven to be a great place for folks to come together and talk about our product and the many hobbies and interests they share. We’ve seen a fair bit of activity there since the pandemic hit.
Discord is like a chatroom for online communities that’s especially popular with gamers. For us, it’s a place where customers and potential customers can reach out for service but it’s also a great place for customers to post pictures, share design ideas for their homes (like chairs or lighting that goes great with our furniture), talk about board games they’re playing, and generally geek out about anything they’re into. It’s free of advertisement and there’s no algorithm controlling what is or isn’t displayed, so it makes for a great community space.
REGals: What are your personal favorite board games?
GT: Dexterity (Flick’em Up, Catacombs, and Lift) and puzzle games (Sagrada and Azul) are favorites here at Bandpass. Gloomhaven is a favorite traditional style board game.
REGals: What’s the longest board game you’ve ever played?
GT: AJ played a nine hour game of Twilight Imperium that ended with him being backstabbed and eliminated. He still hates that game to this day.
Chris once sat for 8.5 hours of DnD as a player. He has since capped any single session to 4 hours.
REGals: Can you tell us a little about the best D&D character you’ve ever played?
GT: Chris is our resident Dungeon Master and he’s pretty flexible when the three of us play together. He was kind enough to let me build a character that, before any given day of play, would switch between chaotic alignments based on a dice roll.