I grew up playing pinball in the 1960's at Seaside Heights down the Jersey shore.
Attracted to the clack of flippers, the flash of the silver ball and the symphony of the chimes and score reel units resetting, I became addicted to pinball at a very early age.
When I got married, I knew I wanted my own pinball machine for our home. In 1986, I bought a 1980 Gottlieb Circus wide body machine for $300 - from Dan Bivona at 3-B Vending.
Source: Internet Pinball Database
The next year I went back to 3-B and bought a Bally Eight Ball machine. Before you know it, people were calling asking if I was the guy that bought pinball machines, because they were moving and they wanted to sell their game.
Our basement became full of pinball machines. Each year at Christmas I would put an ad in the newspaper to sell one or two games that I was no longer interested in keeping.
Source: Internet Pinball Database
Over the years, the collection kept growing and soon, much like in the movie, “The Blob,” the games started making their way upstairs. My son’s room had an Asteroids Deluxe video arcade and my daughter’s room had an original Ms. Pac-Man cocktail table.
When games started moving into the living room and kitchen, my wife Charlotte said that I needed to find a place to store these treasures.
I rented a vacant store front down town in Manville, NJ and that is where I moved all of the games, except Circus.
Source: National Museum of Play
J & R Amusements was born.
From the day I opened the store, people came from all over to buy these games from me. I was quickly running out of inventory. I had been buying games from local operators in NJ. However, these sources of supply were drying up.
Then I made the move that took our business to the next level. I started importing containers of pinball machines from Europe. All of the games were made in Chicago, but a great number were exported around the world. There was no residual value for these games in Europe. People were poor and did not buy pinball machines for their homes. I had an associate in Germany that would buy up all of these games from the operators there, pack them in a container and they would come on a ship back across the ocean. Addams Family, Twilight Zone, Theatre of Magic, Terminator, Corvette, Road Show…. They were all there. They were in great condition, too.
It was a family operation. My father Nick, along with my son Jason and I would unload the containers, set the pinball machines up and convert them to use 120 volts. Business was booming.
I hired a Trademark attorney to file the application with the government and Got Pinball?® became our Registered Trademark.
My son Jason and Pop.
With the support of Angelo Corradino, the Mayor of Manville, we started hosting children’s birthday parties in one of our show rooms. The birthday business was a big hit.
The business really took off! I was working as a Systems Engineer for EMC Corp and Charlotte was taking care of the business during the day.
She would book appointments for me to show and sell the games at night after I got home from work. We also began operating games in bars and commercial locations.
My wife Charlottte in the Showroom
In September of 1999, we decided that we could make a living in the amusement business. So on Monday, September 13th, I turned in my resignation and walked away from my high paying corporate career.
Three days later, Thursday, September 16th, Hurricane Floyd struck, and the Main Street of Manville was under water. Our business and our entire inventory were wiped out in the flood. Charlotte just looked at me and cried. She asked me what we were going to do.
I smiled and said, “Start over”! We did and we continued to grow.
In 2008, we moved the business to Tampa Bay as FLorida Amusement Brokers. We have expanded to larger facilities 3 times since then.
We sell and ship new Stern Pinball machines in Florida and all over the country. We have been selling pinball machines commercially for 24 years now and counting. Life is good in Paradise.
I tell my customers the bad part about buying a pinball machine is that you can’t have just one. They will come back for another again and again. We treat everyone like family and I tell them, “You are going to love having a friend in the business.”
By the way, that original Circus pinball machine that started all this back in 1986 is still in my home!