By Sandra Zunino
Imagine an era when friends and family joked and laughed while gathering over coffee and an assortment of brainteaser puzzles and games. That’s exactly what Freelance Artist Reenie Chase envisioned when she started her business, The Land Before Nintendo.
Reenie has offered wooden puzzles and games as well as her artwork inside the Georgetown Woodcraft and Gallery at Easton’s Amish Country Farmer’s Market since 2008, adopting the phrase, “land before Nintendo” as a motto. A recent restructuring of the Gallery to partner with neighboring “You Deserve it” Fudge Shop encompassed her to name her puzzle part of the business after her long-standing motto.
Land Before Nintendo offers more than 100 brainteaser puzzles and games beautifully handcrafted in fine woods. “These games get people away from the computer and allow them to interact with each other,” she says. “Many of the puzzles deal with the mathematical analytical mind and three-dimension spatial skills, which are lost on computer games.”
Because some of the puzzles are excellent for building math skills, teachers often purchase them to utilize as teaching aids. Because all the puzzles and games develop critical thinking and concentration, they are excellent gifts for the elderly.
In fact, Reenie says many of her senior customers recognize some of the games from their generation. “The premise for many of the puzzles dates back to the 1700 and 1800s,” she says.
For instance, Shut the Box originated in Old English pubs as a gambling game. Because it requires math skills, it’s frequently purchased for use in schools. Many of Land Before Nintendo’s popular games are easily recognized such as Chinese Checkers, Backgammon, Aggravation, three-dimensional Tick-Tack-Toe and Connect Four.
However, Land Before Nintendo is probably the only place you might find Marjong, which is like a Chinese version of Rummy, or Omweso, the national game of Uganda, which uses pits and pebbles.
Reenie finds inventory through a source in Florida and is happy to explain how to play any of the games. In fact, she is frequently found in the store paying her favorite game, Barricade, which combines strategy and luck.
Customers are invited to gather around a table in the Gallery and figure out the puzzles or practice the games. “That’s what I like,” she says. “I’m just glad they are having a fun time doing it.”
Many of the games are made by the Amish and are beautiful enough to display when not in use. Great as Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers, puzzles run from $8 to $16. Games can cost up to $85 for an elaborate wood-carved Marjong game.
Georgetown Woodcraft and Gallery features wood burned, hand carved and painted 3-D pictures by nationally known Amish artist, Dan Esh. Owner of the Gallery, Dan, also founded the Easton Amish Country Farmers Market as well as markets in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. It was Reenie’s connection to Dan through the art world that facilitated the business venture, but it was her exposure to Amish families who use puzzles as entertainment in lieu of television that inspired her to focus on puzzles and games.
Georgetown Woodcraft and Gallery also offers handmade, hand-painted Eldreth Pottery from Southern Lancaster Pennsylvania and hand-quilted placemats and dining accessories by Lydia King.
For more information visit www.amishcountryfarmersmarket.com or visit the market at 101 Marlboro Avenue.
Holiday hours include Tuesday, December 22, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, December 23, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Thursday, December 24 from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The market will be closed Friday and Saturday of that week.