Pips&Bounce, Portland’s very first ping-pong social club and eatery, teamed up with local karaoke talents Baby Ketten Karaoke for a night of pong and song on April 30.
The event began at 8 p.m, but in true Portland style didn’t get into full swing until after 9 p.m. The melodic sounds of amateur karaoke singers and stray plastic balls bouncing around the room created the perfect ambiance.
Pips&Bounce, located on SE Belmont and 9th, has been open since November 2014. Owners and brother-duo Eugene and Michael Jung grew up playing ping-pong as a primary social activity. Years later, they still found themselves meeting over a ping-pong table and eventually expanded their joy of table tennis to the community.
“It’s a new concept,” Eugene Jung said. “[Ping-pong clubs] are starting to sprout in cities across the country and are becoming more mainstream.”
The brothers hosted 30 different pop-up inclusive ping-pong potluck parties between 2012 and 2014 before pinning down a permanent location in the historic Grand Central Building.
“We asked people what their first memory of ping-pong was, and unanimously it was either in a garage or a basement, so we tried to recreate that feeling in our building,” Eugene Jung said.
The building is a perfect mesh of garage and basement setting, with ’70s wood paneling throughout. Church pews and brightly colored furniture add modern flare and character.
The building hosts several full-sized ping-pong tables and an open kitchen for hungry players. With a rotating beer tap and specialty cocktail menu, Pips&Bounce is full of “happy drunks who are really fun to watch,” as one employee put it.
“This is an engaging space for all ages,” Eugene Jung said. “It’s great for all situations: dates, birthday parties, for people who wanna have something to do in the evening. People enjoy what we provide.”
Because of the open kitchen setup, their unique food menu offers tasty baked or grilled options, such as pizzas or paninis, to avoid ping-pong balls flying into a deep fryer.
The kitchen team is a creative and collected group of people all doing their best to make sure everyone, including staff, are having a fun time—even going around collecting stray ping-pong balls to make sure players don’thave to do it themselves.
Julie Waldman, the food and beverage manager, enjoys the small but energetic kitchen space.
“There are always great people and a diverse crowd,” Waldman said. “Ping-pong is for everyone, and everyone is really happy.”
Waldman met the owners at a catering event she was working at and connected with the brothers immediately. She’s been a part of the team since phase one and really enjoys the creativity that comes with being part of something so new.
“There’s no template,” Waldman said. “We invent it all as we go along.”
One of the perks about being such a young business is experimenting with different businesses and forms of entertainment, such as karaoke.
Baby Ketten Karaoke has been in the Portland karaoke scene for seven years, going around to different venues such as Ground Kontrol or Oaks Park roller rink to team up with whatever event happens at each location. For more permanent spots, they can be found at Mississippi Pizza on Tuesday nights and Double Dragon every Saturday.
John Brophy, owner of Baby Ketten, is optimistic about hosting more pong and song nights in the future.
“It’s a trial thing,” Brophy said. “If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll come back.”
Eugene Jung also expressed his optimism for experimenting with local business.
“People come here to play ping-pong, and we’re exploring ideas to give people more options of things to do, like karaoke. We’ll see what happens!”