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Interview with Chris Wootten, Co-Founder and CEO of Pitkin Stearns, the Exclusive Importer and Distributor of the Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games


by Beren Dere

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If there is something that Chris Wootten likes more than traveling, this must be the game of backgammon. Pitkin Stearns was founded by Chris, and from the first day, he started to seek for perfect travel backgammon game. And finally, Chris found the solution in Germany. Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games were the perfect fit for his ideas, and Chris decides to be the exclusive importer and distributor of the Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games. In order to learn more about this story and travel games, I asked Chris Wootten, Co-Founder and CEO of Pitkin Stearns, about Sondergut.

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

Chris Wootten

Chris, you are the founder of Pitkin Stearns and US/Canada Agent of German Brand Sondergut Travel Games. How did you decide to contact Sondergut for being an agent of Roll-up Travel Board Games? What inspired you?

It was once explained to me it is hard to invent the wheel. Rather, find an existing product and make it better. I heard that advice in the early 1990s. I've loved backgammon since I was in high school. I always assumed the game would come in a “suitcase” package. This is heavy, even bulky and inconvenient for travel. I came across the Sondergut roll-up version of backgammon and immediately recognized it was better.

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

Please tell us about yourself. How did Sondergut Travel Games change your life?

The thing I like to promote about the Sondergut Travel Games is how much fun these games get to have. They travel to exotic locations around the world. They get to go camping, to brewpubs, on bicycle tours, to school chess clubs and ... and ... and. What fun! How did the Sondergut games change my life? Not much. However, they have enhanced the way I like to live my life.

Could you tell us about Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games? What are the features of Sondergut Travel Games?

The Sondergut roll-up travel games were designed by our backpacker friends in Germany with two things in mind:

  • To be the lightest travel games on the market.
  • To be the highest quality travel games on the market.

The game boards are hand-sewn pliable leather. The playing stones are melamine. Once the game is finished, you store the playing stones in the zippered pocket. Roll up the game and it becomes the size of a small pocket umbrella (10 x 2”) and weighs less than 8 ounces. Yes, you could actually take 100 of our games in your suitcase and be at under 50 pounds! The playing board is a bit smaller than regulation boards and so are the playing stones. Rolled out, the playing board measures 12.5 x 10”

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

What is the main feature that makes Sondergut Travel Games different?

The key sales feature is the quality and weight. Once your travels are over, you don't throw the game away. It becomes part of your permanent travel collection.

When you travel, you can't afford to take along bulky and heavy items. The Sondergut travel games are light, high in quality and take up no space. Imagine traveling by trains across Europe with just a backpack. Yes, that is our product. Imagine a summer across America by motorcoach. Yes, yes. Imagine a week-long rafting trip down the Colorado River. Yes, yes, yes.

I also love that our games are social games. I'm a big fan of getting off our thumbs. Our games social games to be played with your spouse, friends, and children.

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

Backgammon Cream Main White

What type of games can we play on Roll-up Travel Board?

We offer four different versions in the Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games:

  • Chess / Checkers: Two games in one on the same game board. Flip the pieces over to play checkers. One side has markings distinguishing the different chess pieces. The other side is blank for checkers play.
  • Backgammon: In the classic mocha color. This is best for travel where the game board has the chance to get a little soiled.
  • Backgammon: In the lighter cream color. Great for the hotel lobby!
  • Backgammon Deluxe: Just introduced! Our Deluxe Sondergut Backgammon Game has patented snap together walls. The walls “snap” together like a snap bracelet. When locked, they create a wall to contain the rolling dice. And, when you are finished playing the game, simply “unlock” the snap walls and roll the game up for easy storage. This is much larger than our smaller Sondergut games. The Deluxe version rolled-out board size is 14.5 x 11.5" and weighs 1.2 pounds.

If the user lost any piece of the set, is it possible to buy separately only pieces without a board?

Indeed, yes. We offer full replacement sets of the playing pieces either for Chess / Checkers or the Backgammon games on our sondergut.com website.

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

Could you tell us about Pitkin Stearns and your other products for US and Canada market?

Pitkin Stearns was founded by brothers Chris and Rike Wootten in August of 1990. Our original focus was on exporting the USA made products to Japan. That changed in 2007 when we introduced the Austrian made KB Collection Sand Pictures to the US market. Wow, what fun that turned out to be! Our sand art was featured in the picture windows of Louis Vuitton around the world last fall. Norstroms shared our artwork with 15 of their flagship stores around the USA in the spring of 2017. I like to say there is a sand lover in every budget. Retail prices start at $27.50 and have over 30 different sand pictures selling for under $100. And, yes, we have some spectacular sand art pieces for art collectors. You can find the sand art on our websites:

  • www.pitkinstearns.com
  • www.sandpicture.com
  • www.kbthesandman.com

The sand art is loved by women ... and men ... and older generations to include my parents ... and children. The sand art is interactive, ever-changing and educational. I sometimes refer to it as the intersection of where art meets science.

We have lots of fun videos on YouTube. Enter the keywords “Pitkin Stearns.”

The sand art was our first product to sell in the USA and Canada. We introduced the Sondergut Travel Games in 2013.

What do you think about social media? How do you use it for Pitkin Stearns and Sondergut?

Word of mouth is best for us. Often, someone will be playing our travel games on a cruise ship and the next passenger will need to know where to buy one! Social media is a great way to spread the word.

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games

How can our readers buy Sondergut Roll-up Travel Board Games?

The best place would be our website www.sondergut.com. You can also find them on Amazon.

What is coming up next for you?

I just completed a family vacation to St. Kitts. You can bet I took the games there. In August, I'll take the games with me to Alaska to go fishing. In between, they will come with me to some summer concerts where I will play on the grass between bands with my wife.

We also exhibit at wholesale trade shows around the country to expand the sales into retail stores. This year, we will have exhibited at 10 different shows in all four times zones.

Anything you would like to add that I haven't asked?

People often ask if the games are magnetic. The answer is no. Magnets would make the game heavy and bulky.

Thank you Chris.

For more information, please visit website of Sondergut Roll-up Travel Games