WinniOpoly is a good investment in a 'year of puzzles and games'

W ith COVID-19 making 2020 “the year of games and puzzles,” a local mother and daughter have created one of the year’s biggest, and unexpected hits: WinniOpoly, a super-local Monopoly-style game with Lake Winnipesaukee at its center.

The objective of WinniOpoly is the same as Monopoly, but the action takes place on and around the big lake in Carroll and Belknap counties, rather than in Atlantic City, N.J.

It’s an homage to an earlier Winnipesaukee-influenced board game — Follow the Mount — and a testament to the importance of bouncing ideas off a loved one, said Kathy Tognacci.

A one-time owner of 10 AT&T cellphone stores in Massachusetts, Tognacci eventually sold the businesses and retired with her family to Gilford. For decades, the Tognaccis had skied at Waterville Valley and gone boating on Lake Winnipesaukee, so the move was a logical one.

Still, she found she missed interacting with customers, but thought she’d rather deal with happy seasonal visitors than folks complaining about their broken cellphone or the terms of their service contract.

One day, while driving past the intersection of New Hampshire routes 11 and 11B in Gilford, she saw a “space available” sign in a building that had been home to several businesses, among them the B Mae Denny’s restaurant.

“My daughter, Taylor, and I loved the history of the building,” Tognacci said.

She thought it would be perfect for what in 2015 became the Gilford Country Store.

Dog friendly, the store sells some 10,000 different items, with an emphasis on quality and reasonably-priced clothing and gifts made in New Hampshire and branded with either the New Hampshire or Lake Winnipesaukee names. Shoppers also come here to find gifts touting other lakes, big and small, in the state.

A year after opening the Gilford Country Store, Tognacci and Taylor were enjoying an ice cream cone in Meredith when they spied another available space, which is now Nahamsha Gifts. Nahamsha, the ladies pointed out, is how locals pronounce the name of their home state.

Nahamsha was soon joined by a third store, in Wolfeboro: Live Love Lake Gifts. That store was the result of a courtesy extended to Tognacci by the manufacturers of the Lakegirl line of clothing. The Gilford Country Store had been selling Lakegirl products when one day the maker called Tognacci and asked whether she’d mind if a store in Wolfeboro could do the same.

Not pleased with the prospect of competitor so close by, Tognacci went to Wolfeboro and in 2017 started Live Love Lake on North Main Street.

A game is launched

Fast forward three years and it is now the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, a time that many people were calling “the year of games and puzzles,” said Tognacci, who remembered suggesting to Taylor that they develop a game to sell.

“Taylor, who is always my sounding board, thought it would be a great idea,” said Tognacci.

Having seen a copy of Follow the Mount, which is named after the M/S Mount Washington cruise ship, the Tognaccis found a company that makes local versions of Monopoly and in August began refining what would become WinniOpoly.

The games, whose pewter pieces include a canoe, boat, loon, sunglasses, anchor and log cabin, features 22 properties around Lake Winnipesaukee, with the traditional Monopoly spot of Boardwalk occupied by Kimball Castle, a one-time summer estate of a Boston railroad magnate on Locke’s Hill in Gilford that is now owned by friends of the Tognaccis.

The WinniOpoly properties represent “people we do business with,” Kathy Tognacci said, “and who do good in the community.”

At 6 p.m. on Oct. 29, Tognacci posted a message on the Gilford Country Store’s Facebook page asking if anyone was interested in reserving one of the first 500 copies of WinniOpoly.

Before going to sleep that evening, Tognacci admitted “I was concerned that I might not be able to sell 500,” but she awoke the next morning to find that all 500 had been reserved.

Inspired by the response, Tognacci ordered 1,000 more of the games, which sell for $59.95 each and should arrive sometime in January.

“We wanted it to be a quality game,” said Tognacci, which is why she and Taylor chose pewter instead of plastic playing pieces and turned to a Granite State artist, Ryan O’Rourke, to craft the signature graphic on the board — the depiction of Lake Winnipesaukee.

She’d learned about O’Rourke’s work after seeing an issue of Yankee Magazine. Tognacci bought the rights to O’Rourke’s map and O’Rourke later made signed, framed copies that are being sold at Tognacci’s stores.

“I think (WinniOpoly) is going to be a staple for the Lakes Region,” said Taylor Tognacci, who is co-founder and owner of Nahamsha Gifts and holds a degree in business management from Merrimack College. “I see one in every rental cabin and as a great closing gift” from real estate brokers to their clients, she said.