Red Door Pinball - My Pinball Story

By erok

March 21, 2014

6 years ago

Ok so I finally am going to take the time to write my bio on here.  I am a musician and a professional audio engineer. I attended Full Sail University in 1998 and started working in a professional studio in 2001 full time. 

Music has pretty much been my entire life.  As a what we call in the industry a "gear head" I have spent years studying the history of audio and audio equipment.  Like most people that do what I do we love anything vintage.  Guitars, microphones, drums, compressors, EQ's, pre amps, consoles, pretty much any gadget you can put your hands on that lights up and does something.

So what does this have to do with pinball?  Well as a kid in the 80's arcades were everywhere.  My dad would take me to the arcade at the mall, or in the back of the first video stores (before the corporate Blockbusters destroyed them) to play video games.  We didn't have a lot of money growing up so I never had the latest greatest home entertainment stuff.  So to get to play an arcade game was a real treat.  Being a kid I liked the video games the best and anything that gave me tickets to win cheap prizes. While I was doing this my dad would always park himself in front of the line of pinball machines.  After running out of money I would venture over to the machines to see what he was up to.  I could just see over the machines but they were always fascinating to me, and I would get some extra quarters from pops to play the machine next to him.

As I grew up home consoles got better and easier to come by, and I became a Nintendo and Sega Genesis player.  We would still venture out to the pool halls and video stores to play here and there, but they became few and far between and kind of slipped away unnoticed. 

Fast forward to 2012.  I am now in my mid 30's and I have recently come off a several year run of being a avid dart thrower, playing in leagues and tournaments.  The league I ran was coming to an end and I found myself wondering to the little bar that opened above where I was holding tournaments.  I went up there to meet a friend of mine and he was in a back room of the place playing pinball.  I hadn't seen pinball machines in ages anywhere in town.  I played a few games, and I was hooked. It was everything that I loved about old audio gear.  It was a machine you could touch that lit up and made noise.  I immediately wanted to know the history of games, and how they worked.  It's the perfect hobby for someone that is a gear head. 

At that point I said this is my next project.  I'm going to start a pinball league! I talked to the bar owner and he was cool with me doing one there.  He didn't keep up with the machines and they were just there for entertainment to him. I asked him who ran the machines and he said to contact them and I could take it over.  So I got on the phone and the dude was very cool and open to help.  We had 3 machines at the time, SM, FGY, and  Monopoly.  I talked him into adding one more game, and got a TSSP he had just gotten out of an auction. 

I put together the first tournament and got a good number of people out to play.  Several of them are good friends of mine now.  We were a small group but we all shared our love for the game, the history, and nostalgia of pinball. 

Next job was to get my girlfriend hooked.  She was reluctant and frustrated because as she said the machines were mean to her for making her loose the ball.  But she stuck with it and learned the layout, shots, and rules.  Before long she was hooked.

This started our next phase of spending our vacations hunting down pins.  It's become the highlight of every place we go.  Sometimes with very disappointing results as we find a title we have been wanting to see in person and it's in terrible condition.  But that's the state of things now days.

Last summer I decided that I had to have my own pinball machine.  So I set out looking and found a Pin*Bot near by that was in my price range.  I ended up taking my pinball operator with me to look at it, and it was in almost pristine condition for a game of that age.  I talked them down because of an audio issue we found with the game and loaded it on the truck.

Soon after this I got the word that the bar I was running the pinball tournaments at was going out of business.  The games were leaving and may not end up back on rout, and if they did there wouldn't be a room with 4 in one place.  This was devastating as my pinball addiction was just getting into full gear.

So I decide I was going to buy the bar.  I always wanted to own my own bar, and the with years I spent in the music industry I would also have a chance to book acts and make some money.  It was a win win for me.

I spent the end of the summer of 2013 renovating the bar, building a show room, and moving the pins out to the main bar area where everyone could see them.  Now we are the only location I know of around South Carolina that has 4 pins on location and rotates titles regularly.  We hold a tournament the last Sunday of every month that counts for IFPA points. 

Just recently I added my second home pin rescuing a High Speed from my pinball operators shop that had been sitting in the corner.  The guy that owned it was planning on having it restored but bailed on it.  So now it sits right next to Pin*Bot keeping him company.

I have totally enjoyed my new hobby of collecting and doing my part to save pinball.  I'm extremely happy that I have been able to keep games out in public for new and old pinball players to play, and that I have an operator that is willing to put in the extra work to make sure that the games are in top notch shape. Also I'm thankful for the awesome people I've met that share my love for these games.

If you are ever in Columbia, SC make sure to stop by and see me and play some pinball.  My web site for the bar is below.  Thanks for reading.


Story photos



6 years ago

Great Story there Erok! I'm a retired musician myself having played drums in most cases and ran FOH in others for the better part of 25 years. I too played pins and vids as a kid and discovered this wonderful hobby 4 years ago.

Buying a bar is a way gustier move than I'd be willing to make. It's the risk takers in this hobby that I respect a great deal and I wish you the absolute best of luck and success! I myself am waiting for the Powerball lady to make MY dreams come true!! :)

-Steve Ridge

6 years ago

Great story, Erok!
Thanks for sharing with the community.

6 years ago

This is really cool. I love how your solution to "the pinballs are leaving" was to buy the bar. :D Seriously, very neat. Thanks for sharing.

6 years ago

Great to see you posting the story! I gotta agree, your operator is a pretty good guy. I am really looking forward to coming up to Columbia to play in one of the tourneys!

6 years ago

Thanks for reading!

Yeah Wolf it was good seeing you again at Pinception. Last Sunday of every month we are running the tournament. Come join us.

6 years ago

I looked at the website for your bar and if I lived in Columbia, SC, I would be there all the time. Pinball and good beer, you really have it going on. Wishing you much success.

6 years ago

Excellent story, enjoyed the read

6 years ago

Dude, great story. Congrats on the bar purchase and thanks for sharing.

6 years ago

Great story. Reminds me of that old "remmington" shaver ad(??). "I liked it so much I bought the company". The bar looks great. Wish there were more like it in Australia.

6 years ago

great story, always great to hear about someone who is keeping pinball out in a public location so the general public can see and play the machines. its what is really going to keep this great pastime alive. i have only been into this for a couple of months and i already have 4 machines, including a high speed. the 1986 williams high speed is downright fantastic. my favorite game, so fast and full of energy i doubt i will ever sell that pin.

6 years ago

This is awesome. I may have to schedule a vacation just to take a road trip down to your bar for one of these tourney's. If you ever want to book a punk show with a band or 2 from NYC. Let me know, I am in a band and know lots of folks looking to travel.

6 years ago

My parents retired to Chapin, and live on Lake Murray. Next time I'm visiting I'll stop by!

I'm also a musician and gearhead, totally into the vintage. My gigging amp is a '69 Vibrolux Reverb.

6 years ago

You run a great tournament. I can't wait to make it out there again.

6 years ago

Pretty cool story so far and from the looks of your site I know where my local hangout would be if I lived in your neck of the woods. Good luck to you!

Add a comment

Wanna make a comment? Click here to sign in or register.