Talicor: The Almighty Lord is Christ Our Redeemer

Dec 30, 2002 01:52 PM EST

How did Talicor Inc., he nation's largest manufacturer of Christian board games beginording to Lew Herndon, the chairman of the board at Talicor Inc., the company started in a gargabe can. Now, despite humble beginnings, the Chino-based company produces over 33 varieties of Christian games, which currently constitute between 40 to 45 percent of his company sales.

Although Herndon did not release sales and employment figures, he did mention that a strong holiday season is expected, following the release of the Veggie Tales movie and the second release of "Left Behind."

"(Veggie Tales) has certainly influenced greatly the impact of our sales in the marketplace," he said.

The Veggie Tale line includes Overboard Adventure, a board game, a fishing card game, a 63-piece boxed puzzle and a 20-piece inlaid puzzle for small children.

"Certainly because of the impact of the movie and the marketplace, those items are selling extremely briskly out there," he said.

Interest for the Left Behind series has not waned through the course of the several years it was laid in the market; the recent release of the new movie and books have generated even more interest from the consumers.

"Those things drive those sales, depending on the sales of the books and movies," he said.

Also expected to be successful is the line from BibleMan, who is on tour this year and next, and is coming out with a new video in December.

"We certainly feel the sales increasing again," he said. "He can develop a tremendous following. He gets across such wonderful concepts to the kids, especially in a format they like."

The cherished favorite of Talicor Inc. however, is undoubtedly their signature game - the Ungame. Described as a conversational non-competitive board game that guilds relationships and fosters listening, the Ungame was created by a woman named Rhea Zakich during an extended doctor-ordered silence spell.

Her friends and church enjoyed this homemade version of the game, and soon, Zakich pitched her game to many major game companies. However, none of the companies answered her pitch. Out of frustration, Zakich throw out numerous flawed games into the trashcan; these were soon discovered by a 10 year old neighbor boy who took the game home.

Coincidentally, the boy's mother worked for Herndon in an audio/visual company, and the rest is history. Herndon loved the game and began manufacturing it, prompting the unofficial slogan that the company was created in a garbage can.

"God does have a sense of humor," he said.

Thirty years and more than a million games later, the "ungame" is still the company's best game. The success, he said, has been measured in countless letters from people sharing stories of reconciliation, bonding and life-changing religious experiences.

Even despite the constant sales of the ungame and other Christian games, Hernon believes, "The things that affect the secular market affect the Christian market in my opinion," he said. "There are various kinds of things that will affect the market."

Among the influence is the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which left America with a lingering passion for home, bonds and relationships.

"Everything that I'm reading, people aren't traveling as much, they are staying at home more," the game maker said. "They are spending money to upgrade and repair their home. That goes hand to glove with it."

"Most of the electronic entertainment vehicles that are available to us, television, the Internet, the video games, they are pretty much self-directed," he said. "They are not group activities.

"A lot of people who work on a computer all day long, they don't want to spend the evening on it."

In many ways, he said, the Christian market can benefit from hot sales trends in the secular market. For instance, the popular Scattegories game has been developed into a biblical version, as have other popular trivia games. If there is something hot in the secular market, Herndon said, "most often there is some game that parallels that trend in the Christian market."

This year, in conjunction with the 30th anniversary, the Talicor is selling a special edition of the beloved, ungame, that features a CD-ROM with Zakich's story.

"It promotes listening from the other players," he said, adding that they sell a secular and a Christian version of the game. "Some have made life commitments to the Lord while playing the game."

Herndon even credits Zakich as playing a role in his conversion into chrsitianity.

"When I first went into the game business I was not a Christian. I was just a churchgoer," he said. "Through my association with Rhea and other wonderful people in the Christian community, I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior."

Because of his experience, Herndon said the enterprise is much more than the dollars and cents of entrepreneurship.

"I can't tell you how rewarding it is to be able to supply products that are good, wholesome, products for the kids to play with . the education," he said. "We are thrilled to be able to provide those."

Although initially named as a derivative of the phrase to tally up the score, Herndon said he now likes to say the company name is an acronym for The Almighty Lord is Christ Our Redeemer.

By Paulina C.