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Made in WNY: KanJam

Cheektowaga, NY (WBEN) - If you've never played KanJam before, the idea is quite simple.

"It's a game that is played with two people on each team, and you throw and deflect a frisbee (into a can) to collect 21 points," said KanJam Co-Owner Mitch Rubin. "KanJam has the unique feature of an instant-win slot, so if you're losing by 19-4 and you throw an instant win, it's game over, and there's hardly anything more exciting than throwing an instant win."

KanJam has been made entirely in Western New York since its inception, which Rubin tells us is pretty much what you would expect it to be. "It goes back to the mid-nineties, when Charles Sciandra my business partner, and his partner Paul Swisher were playing a game in North Tonawanda that at the time was loosely called 'Garbage Can Frisbee.'"
Since that time, Sciandra and Swisher patented the game and with the help of Rubin, began selling it to retailers in the mid-2000's. Though the game is now played all over the world, KanJam comes from very humble beginnings.

"We would get phone calls from individual people, and we would put together games in our basements. In the morning I would take them to the post office, put them on the floor and push four or five games up to the counter and ship them out by Priority Mail."
-Players must remain behind goal when throwing
-No points awarded if the disc hits ground, or is "double tapped"
-A team must reach exactly 21 points to win
-1 point for a redirected hit, 2 points for a direct hit, 3 points for a "slam dunk," and an instant win for a slotted disc
Now, KanJam operates out of a facility in Cheektowaga, where at times over 20 employees work to put together games and ship them out all across the country. Even though KanJam has rapidly expanded, Rubin says that he and Sciandra take pride in making sure the game is truly a made in Western New York product.

"Our material suppliers are all Buffalo companies," Rubin said. "We use Curbell Plastics for our goals, we use PM Plastics in Orchard Park for our injection-molded discs, we use Jamestown Container for our corrugated boxes, we use Queen City Imaging on Main Street in Buffalo to print our instructions." The list goes longer. Everything you see in the box, and the box itself, is made in the area.

To grow the game, KanJam gave units out to area middle and high schools. There, students played the game in physical education classes. Those who liked the game went out and bought their own KanJam. "Because we started out in Buffalo-area schools and the popularity grew from Buffalo, when the students went off to college, and most of them went to SUNY schools, they brought the game with them. As we added schools throughout the state and throughout the country, students were bringing the game to college, so it spread rapidly."

KanJam can now boast that the game is played across the globe. "We are now in 4,500 retail locations across North America," Rubin said, that number includes numerous stores in Canada. "We are currently in 17 countries in Europe, we just signed a deal with another company to export KanJam to New Zealand and Australia."

Just as the game grows, so do the number of ways you can play.

"In 2013 we launched our second game, KanJam Mini, which is the indoor/outdoor version. This year, we launched our third game 'KanJam Splash.' We have a new game that we're going to be launching this fall, and then we have another game that will be launching either in 2015 or 2016. We also have a flying disc line. We have a glow-in-the-dark product line. We are also launching two new products, we're going to be selling KanJam Gloves and a KanJam carrying case."

Did he just say KanJam Gloves?

Rubin says the gloves will be for the competitive KanJam player who has aching hands from hours upon hours of throwing and deflecting frisbees.

What's next for KanJam? Besides the new products, Rubin says he is looking forward to the annual KanJam World Championships that take place where it all began in North Tonawanda. This year, the tournament will have a special twist. Because of KanJam's popularity overseas, the winners of the European Championship will be flown over to Buffalo, where they will take on the North American Champions in a World Championship game.



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Topics : Sports
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Locations : BuffaloCheektowagaNew YorkWestern New York
People : Charles SciandraMitch RubinPaul Swisher
07/02/2014 5:54PM
Made in WNY: KanJam
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