After his morning cup of coffee, Nick Margaritondo strolls downstairs to his workshop and gets to work with smooth jazz playing overhead.
He’s retired, so it’s really just a way to keep the 78-year-old busy, but the things he creates, the products he makes, bring people together for a good time. So, when he thinks about it, it’s a little more than just a way to keep his mind going. Margaritondo makes corn hole boards, an idea his stepson gave him about eight years back. He didn’t quite know what the game of cornhole was, but he decided to give it a shot. And after years of people requesting sets of his handmade boards, he’s turned Nick’s Nack into a brisk little business.
Last year, he sold about 80 sets. and at $185 each he’s found a way to make a little money, too.
“I had taken an aptitude test a hundred years ago,” Margaritondo said, laughing. “And what showed up was I loved working with my hands, and I loved tangible things.”
That aptitude test couldn’t have been more accurate. Over the years, he’s made bluebird houses and raised garden beds, selling them around town and at festivals. But way before that, about 20 years ago, his daughter asked him if he could make a train table for her son. She showed him a photo of it in a magazine and he got to work.
That train table still sits in Margaritondo’s basement to this day.
“Woodworking, his father never did it, his brothers never did it,” said Gwen, Margaritondo’s wife. “But he always had a little shop. No matter how little the house was there was a little shop.”
The seemingly lost art of woodworking is alive and well in Margaritondo’s basement oasis, and nowadays it all starts with a piece of birch plywood. He gets them precut to regulation size and with a hole in the middle near the top. He builds the sides of the boards, screwing them into place, then glues and nails that piece of plywood on top.
After taping lines, painting, sanding and staining, the boards are almost complete.
He’ll add whatever decal the customer wants and then he’ll cut the legs, attach them and the boards are ready to go.
“I make every set as if it's my own,” Margaritondo said. “I've never had anybody call me six months or six years later and say the boards fell apart on them … I take my time with them.”
After he made that first set of boards for his stepson, he decided to put them on Craigslist. He’d get orders from time to time, but things really picked up after he moved into the neighborhood he’s in now and was able to have his workshop just the way he likes it.
Word about his corn hole boards spread quickly, but he was still looking for a way to sell more. He found a good match with Jason Sillay, who owns Xtreme Xplosives, a fireworks shop in town.
“I’m always in support of anyone trying to get out there and do something for themselves,” Sillay said. “We talked about getting his boards out at some of our other locations, but really, I think the work he’s done has been enough and overwhelming out of that one location.”
After some work with the city of Gainesville, Margaritondo was allowed to set up four times each year in the parking lot of Xtreme Xplosives to sell his corn hole boards. He said about 90% of his business comes from that parking lot.
“It’s been a huge hit with people around here,” Sillay said. “I think he’s worn himself out.”
And he has. Even Margaritondo’s wife has noticed.
“It was very successful,” Margaritondo said of selling boards at the fireworks shop. “I was like, 'This is like going back to work. This is really unbelievable.’ In fact, my wife, we've been married 30 years and she never in my life had to make my lunch until I started doing this.”
He’s as good of a woodworker as he is a salesman. He worked his way into selling at Xtreme Xplosives and has started selling in a retail space at Lanier Carts & Outdoor on Mundy Mill Road in Oakwood. He’s even planning on going around to wedding venues in the area to tell them about his boards. He was at The Times’ Outdoor Expo and will be at Mule Camp Market on the square Oct. 11-13.
It’s a business, not so much a hobby anymore.
But even though he’s a master craftsman of cornhole boards, that doesn’t mean he’s any good at the game.
“I've played it one time over at my daughter’s house, and I could not get that thing in the hole,” Margaritondo said, laughing.
Even though he doesn’t play much and doesn't think he’d be good at it even if he tried, Margaritondo is happy with what he’s built and how he gets to spend his day.
When he wraps up woodworking around 4 p.m., he picks up a cigar and a sudoku puzzle, sits outside in the shade and works his way to becoming an expert sudoku puzzler. Then comes time for dinner with his wife and a couple hours later, some Netflix.
It’s all in a day’s work and it’s a way to keep his mind going while making others a little happier.
“The biggest challenge that a senior has is keeping your mind active,” Margaritondo said. “So what I like to be able to do is to figure out how I'm going to do something.”