Rural Missouri - February 2016 - (Page 10)
Columbia couple has
resurrected this classic
by Jason Jenkins | firstname.lastname@example.org
ramps, elevated playing ﬁelds with extra ﬂippers and multi-ball mode, to
name just a few innovations.
"They were making really great pinball machines, but nobody wanthey sat in the corners of bowling alleys, bars and
pizzerias across the country. Their lights danced and
ed to buy them," says Nic, a member of Boone Electric Cooperative.
"Then, fast-forward 10 years, everybody wanted them because they
their music played, coaxing quarter after quarter from
weren't being made anymore."
patrons' pockets. A push of the start button provided the
Basic economics of supply and demand have taken hold since,
ball, which with the pull on the plunger, was sent hurtling onto a
and Nic says the market for these collectible machines is at an
playﬁeld of bumpers, ﬂippers, ramps and targets.
all-time high. In fact, popular used machines from the 1990s
Regarded as a game of skill, pinball was a gaming ﬁxture for
often are more expensive than brand-new machines.
decades. They were stalwarts of the arcade, that is, until the arcade
"Take the Addams Family as an example," he explains. "It was
was no more. In the 1990s, pinball virtually disappeared, a mechanical
made in 1992 with a production of 20,000. It was the best-selling pinball
monolith seemingly destined to not cross the digital divide.
But pinball didn't die altogether. While some new games were being manufac- machine of all time. When we got in the business in 2006, we'd retail that
tured in a diminished capacity, aﬁcionados began seeking out used machines, machine for $3,495. Today, we sell it for $8,000. It's the same for dozens and
and a home market for pinball blossomed. In 2006, Nic Parks recognized this dozens of titles."
Decent used pinball machines now start around $3,500. While this puts
shift and realized that few, if any, were catering to these players online. He
pinball machines out of reach for many at home, Nic and Brooke are inviting
decided to change that.
He and his wife, Brooke, established The Pinball Co., which in the past people to play at the most unlikely of places - the arcade. In 2015, they opened
The Arcade at Columbia Mall.
decade has become the nation's largest online retailer of the games.
"Kids are now growing up with tablets and mobile devices. That's gaming to
"It wasn't that I was a big fanatic. I remember playing some pinball in college, but that was the end of the modern era of pinball," Nic says. "I identiﬁed a them," says Nic, who adds they also have pinball machines inside Lazer Lanes,
product that was really underrepresented in the online marketplace and used a local family entertainment center. "Pinball and the arcade experience, which
my web development skills and my MBA to make it a business. It was a niche we're trying to sell now, is totally different than sitting at home with a controlbusiness with not a lot of competition, and so innocently, we were able to grab ler. We're trying to get more and more young people exposed to pinball."
In 2015, Nic and Brooke began publishing GameRoom Magazine with the
a huge market share from the beginning. Now, pinball is in comeback mode."
intent of keeping in touch with customers and
Nic and Brooke started small, selling machines
providing information about developments in the
out of their home basement. The business was
industry. As the father of a 3-year-old, Nic bemoans
simple: A customer made a request for a machine,
the dearth of family-friendly themes currently being
which they would ﬁnd, refurbish and sell.
produced, and he says he has a goal of one day pro"I learned where I could get used pinball
ducing his own pinball machines.
machines, how much I could get them for and how
The Pinball Co. opens its doors for an open house
much I could resell them for," Nic explains. "It was
each July when anyone can come out and play any
matching buyers and sellers."
of the machines in stock. Nic says he enjoys hearing
The business grew and as they learned the marthe stories behind the pinball purchases.
ket, they decided to stock the most popular games.
"Before I went back to grad school, I sold insur"We've identiﬁed the top 100 or so modern-era
ance. It was something that everybody needed,
pinball machines, and we make it a point to keep at
technically, but nobody wanted. It was so hard to
least one of each of those in stock," says Nic, who
sell insurance policies," Nic says. "And as soon as
adds they also retail brand-new machines. "That's
I had something that nobody needed but everybody
probably the largest selection in the Midwest and
seemed to want, it was so easy to sell. Our product
arguably one of the largest in the country."
The pinball machines of the 1990s were special, Top: Brooke and Nic Parks started The Pinball Co. in 2006 and is fun."
Nic says. Those who made them were trying desper- have grown their business into one of the largest online retailers
To learn more about The Pinball Co., call 573-234ately to compete against video games, so their prod- of new and used pinball machines. Above: Nic solders a wire
2234 or visit www.thepinballcompany.com.
uct became more complex. Games featured multiple providing power to an LED light on the back of the playﬁeld.
RURAL MISSOURI | FEBRUARY 2016
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