Founder: Thomas Burke
Year launched: 1968
Game types: Board games, jigsaw puzzles, memory games
Flagship games: Knowledge cards, with portraits of historical figures on one side and profiles on the other.
Last May, Katie Burke, publisher and vice president at Pomegranate, had a unique problem: Nearly all the cardboard boxes used for shipping in the company's 100,000-square-foot warehouse were the wrong size.
"We were getting so many orders for just one puzzle, when we're used to shipping out a couple hundred puzzles to one place," she says. "It was a little frantic there in the beginning."
Pomegranate, which sells board games, puzzles, coloring books and much more, experienced skyrocketing sales during the first wave of the coronavirus. Typically, the company sells in bulk to bookstores and museums. But with all those closed, its direct-to-consumer sales from the website "exploded."
Pomegranate was founded in San Francisco at the same time hippies flocked to Haight-Ashbury. Burke's husband, Thomas, sold posters from his kitchen table and had an idea to repurpose and distribute art to the masses, producing the works of contemporary painters in the form of notecards and game decks. The company sold its first jigsaw puzzle nearly 15 years ago and moved up to Portland in 2013.
Now settled near the Columbia River, Pomegranate has all kinds of games, quiz cards and puzzles adorned with the works of Edward Hopper, Joan Metcalf, and Vincent van Gogh. Next month, the company is releasing its third board game, this time based on Addams Family creator Charles Addams' cartoons.
For Burke, the answer to why people have gravitated toward analog puzzles and games in the midst of sustained quarantine is simple: It doesn't require much thought.
"When I'm working on a puzzle, I'm not worrying about anything, I'm just focusing on finding that piece," she says. "You can learn so much about a painting, putting a puzzle together."
What game are you really into right now? "I've always been a big jigsaw puzzle doer, so I usually have one at home. I just did one of ours [Paul Heussenstamm: Tapestry Mandala 1000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle]. Usually when I do a puzzle, I start with the edge pieces and put those all together as a frame, but with this one, because it was a mandala, I started in the middle and worked out from the circle."