Ever since she was a little girl, Jessica Griffith has played backgammon. She’s so good that last summer she knocked an older reigning champ out of the Fourth of July tournament at Piping Rock Country Club on Long Island. “I love that it is a combination of strategy and luck,” explains Jessica. “I think that creates somewhat of a level playing field when you compete against someone who is either more or less experienced than you.”
She majored in history at Hamilton College and joined a private equity firm in New York after graduating in 2013. One New Year’s Eve, she went on vacation with her family in the Bahamas and came across a cool custom backgammon board at the Dunmore Hotel on Harbour Isand that had been handmade by a local. “I called the Bahamian who made it—but he wasn’t interested in painting another one, so that’s when I decided to make them myself,” explains Jessica. She tracked down a Danish craftsman near her hometown of Washington’s Crossing in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and the two set out to create handmade, custom boards together—suddenly, her company Nine Fair was officially off the ground.
Jessica ultimately left her private equity job to work on Nine Fair full-time, operating the business from her family’s house on Nantucket. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how supportive and encouraging my friends and family have been,” says Jessica of her newfound career. “Not so pleasantly surprised by how much work actually goes into launching your own company!
Each board takes between three and five weeks to produce, and Jessica paints the designs on the wooden pieces lined with woven raffia herself; thus the high price point, but the pieces are personalized collectibles, which really make them worth the stretch. “I really love the wedding board that I made for a couple,” says Griffith. “I painted the wedding crest that they used on their invitations, and it was lovely.” The custom boards are by far her most popular order these days, and Jessica goes to great lengths to ensure each one is built to stand the test of time. “Over the summer, I left finished boards on my parents’ porch on Nantucket to make sure they could survive the island’s fog and humidity,” she says. “I’ve also taken some boards into my bathroom while I shower to make sure they don’t peal in a steamy room.” Each one of them is finished with an “accident resistant” spray, so you can pass your board on for generations.
This Friday is the last day you can order and receive delivery in time for the holidays, so drop everything and head over to Ninefair.com now.