Brothers Michael and Eugene Jung freely admit that becoming adults didn’t turn out to be as much fun as they had expected. Ping pong had been a big part of their childhood fun growing up in Kentucky, where they had played with friends, their father and with each other. And somehow, being an adult didn’t seem to provide that sense of fun very often.
The brothers were living at opposite ends of the country, Eugene in New York City and Michael in Portland. Eugene was able to connect with ping pong players in NYC, who initially held tournaments in a member’s home, but then opened a public ping pong facility. Michael wished there was such an opportunity back in Portland. In March of 2012 he organized a “pop-up” ping pong party, inviting 40 of his Facebook friends. Two hundred people showed up for the party and many of them requested that he hold another event.
The Jungs named their endeavor “Pips & Bounce.” (Pips are the small rubber tips on the paddles. There are different lengths and patterns that affect the way the ball reacts to a hit.) Monthly events were held and attention and interest built quickly. Ever creative, the brothers held one event at the corner of Northwest 13th Avenue and Everett Street. According to an article in The Oregonian, “traffic jammed the intersection” as drivers slowed to “gawk” at the ping pong tables! (Jamie Hale, Entertainment Section, 7/30/14).
After about a year of successful pop-up events, the brothers decided they needed a brick and mortar location. Eugene moved to Portland to devote his efforts to establishing a successful business with his brother. They searched diligently for an appropriate location, finally settling on space in the historic Grand Central Building. In July 2014, a Kickstarter campaign was initiated to help establish the business, raising $51,059 from 138 backers.
At the time there were bars and event spaces in Portland that had ping pong tables, but they just seemed like an afterthought to the business’s main purpose. Portland also had a table tennis club, but it catered to more serious and competitive players. Michael and Eugene weren’t opposed to competition, but their main purpose was to duplicate the fun they remembered from growing up, describing their intent to establish a “retro-basement-rec-room-chic-ping-pong-lounge” that you always wanted (even if you didn’t realize it)!
While most of us are aware that table tennis (the term for the game used by Olympic and professional players) is a serious sport, we may not be aware that there are health benefits beyond having fun. An article on the front page of the Augusta Free Press (Virginia) published on July 15, 2019, listed 11 health benefits from playing ping pong, including improvement of reflexes and hand/eye coordination, increasing flexibility and balance, and stimulating brain activity. Dr. Daniel Amen, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine, stated that ping pong is the “world’s best brain sport,” and it is being used as therapy to enhance the abilities of dementia patients. (Sport and Art Educational Foundation).
Ping pong tables at Pips & Bounce can be rented by the half-hour, and they offer several different levels of membership. Food and drinks are available and special events such as trivia night are held monthly. There is a room available for private events, such as birthday or retirement parties, and even corporate team building. Pips & Bounce also plans to open a new facility in Minneapolis in the Spring.
Michael and Eugene Jung certainly have managed to combine being an adult with having a lot of fun!