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(Topic ID: 276392)

Am I crazy to open a pinball joint in a sleepy beach town?


By spblat

57 days ago



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  • 66 posts
  • 49 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 51 days ago by d0n
  • Topic is favorited by 6 Pinsiders

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    #1 57 days ago

    Hi friends. So I want people to enjoy pinball. I want them to enjoy my games and I want a venue for expanding my collection. There's a sleepy beach town I love that has zero pinball machines within about an hour's drive in any direction. Because you can't make money on pinball alone in a smallish space without tons of traffic I was thinking about buying a lot near the beach and leasing space to residential tenants or other business owners in a building I'd raise, leaving me around 1000 square feet for a dozen games and a few tables for people to hang out, have a snack, charge their phones or play tabletop games. Behind the modest token revenue and the tenant income would be merchandise sales, snacks and beverages, in-home game rentals and events.

    So I have a business plan. I have my eye on a lot three blocks from the water. I have a rough financial model. I'm looking for funding in a climate where lenders aren't interested in startups. What I'm most apprehensive about is that in order to satisfy my desire to spread the pleasure of pinball, I also need to get excited about managing the real estate and the leasing and the retail and a bunch of non-pinball stuff.

    What do you think? Am I gearing up to do something challenging and fun, or am I setting myself up to fall out of love with pinball? How do you scratch your "spread the love of pinball" itch without a seven-figure budget?

    #2 57 days ago

    If it's a sleepy town without much foot traffic, it's not going to be financially viable.

    If it's a busy area with crowds of people like the NJ boardwalk, then maybe.

    If it's going to be a club or co-op, and there are several pinheads in the area that can support it with membership fees, then that might be another option. But if one membership is going to make or break the endeavor, then it's not going to be viable.

    Three blocks away from the center of activity just sounds like it's not going to be good for foot traffic.

    #3 57 days ago

    Three blocks off of a sleepy beach/town center seems To be a bad combo

    #4 57 days ago
    Quoted from spblat:

    Hi friends. So I want people to enjoy pinball. I want them to enjoy my games and I want a venue for expanding my collection. There's a sleepy beach town I love that has zero pinball machines within about an hour's drive in any direction. Because you can't make money on pinball alone in a smallish space without tons of traffic I was thinking about buying a lot near the beach and leasing space to residential tenants or other business owners in a building I'd raise, leaving me around 1000 square feet for a dozen games and a few tables for people to hang out, have a snack, charge their phones or play tabletop games. Behind the modest token revenue and the tenant income would be merchandise sales, snacks and beverages, in-home game rentals and events.
    So I have a business plan. I have my eye on a lot three blocks from the water. I have a rough financial model. I'm looking for funding in a climate where lenders aren't interested in startups. What I'm most apprehensive about is that in order to satisfy my desire to spread the pleasure of pinball, I also need to get excited about managing the real estate and the leasing and the retail and a bunch of non-pinball stuff.
    What do you think? Am I gearing up to do something challenging and fun, or am I setting myself up to fall out of love with pinball? How do you scratch your "spread the love of pinball" itch without a seven-figure budget?

    You’d really have to cultivate a hardcore following. Mystic did it and they were out in nowheresville. It was a great place to stop and play in a tiny hipster town. They did tons of tournaments constantly, and had a passionate REPEAT customer base. That’s the key if foot traffic and location isn’t slamming.

    #5 57 days ago

    How important is it that you turn a profit? Do you need to, or can you break even or even lose to spread the love of pinball? In other words is this philanthropy or capitalism?

    #6 57 days ago

    I'm sure you guys are right. Quick clarification in case it changes anything: It's in the center of town, on the main drag, amidst all the town's businesses, three short blocks from the water.

    Quoted from jackd104:

    How important is it that you turn a profit? Do you need to, or can you break even or even lose to spread the love of pinball? In other words is this philanthropy or capitalism?

    This is the capitalist approach. It would need to turn a profit since the proposal is to borrow a bunch of money. I would also like to find a philanthropic approach--I could keep my day job and run this on the side, whatever it turns into. Thanks for the responses so far!

    #7 57 days ago

    it honestly sounds like you'll be a landlord/property manager, with some pinball machines to fix as a hobby.

    #8 57 days ago
    Quoted from bigehrl:

    it honestly sounds like you'll be a landlord/property manager, with some pinball machines to fix as a hobby.

    This is the exact scenario that worries me.

    #9 57 days ago

    Anyone would be crazy to open a pinball anything in hopes or making money (or even breaking even)

    #10 57 days ago

    Legal weed, great craft beer, and pinball all go perfectly, together.

    Do the have legal weed and good beer in Oregon?

    #11 57 days ago

    YES! Ok it's back on

    #12 57 days ago

    Commenting only on the name of the post ...

    In short...Yes. If you sell drinks and don't care about making money from the machines ... then Maybe.

    #13 57 days ago

    Speaking candidly, I believe you are setting yourself up for heartache and failure. Your desire to spread the love of pinball is admirable, but to be successful with the model that you described, your main focus is going to be having to build a space and get tenants. You stated that this is the area that you do not want to focus on. If you are set on becoming a landlord and have a small space to have pins then proceed. If you goal is to have pins and have to go build multiple businesses around it to make it work, I think there are better avenues to explore. Can you find a place to rent to see if this town would work? If it does, then you could try to go build a place. If not, you minimize your losses and exposure.

    #14 57 days ago

    I’m getting stomach acid just thinking about this. There has to be an easier way to acquire more pin space.

    #15 57 days ago

    Smokey, my friend, you are entering a world of pain.
    ...Walter Sobchak

    #16 57 days ago

    Property management is a lot of work and running a pinball arcade seems like a lot work. If you enjoy doing both, then go for it! People that enjoy what they are doing tend to be better rewarded on many levels and more likely to be successful. You can make good money investing in real estate bought right. If you don’t want to be a landlord (a very people intensive job to do right!), don’t give yourself a true “job” with this venture.

    Are the other entertainment venues thriving right now in your town? Maybe you can partner with somebody established and put a few games out that way to judge the pinball market? I know of vendors that do a split on their games and can make money - they operate mostly video games though. I think almost all of the pinball places I used to go to at the Jersey shore are gone, so a pinball arcade without other rental income might not yield acceptable profit for the work/risk put in. You can also use the game revenue from this market test as evidence to get funding at a better rate.

    #17 57 days ago

    You should consider expanding the venue in your home . Buy the games what you want and enjoy the new titles . Lifes too short for all the various hardships you are likely to experience. Ask LTG how enriching pinballs are with all the covid issues in society now .

    Be well Shane

    #18 57 days ago
    Quoted from spblat:

    Hi friends. So I want people to enjoy pinball. I want them to enjoy my games and I want a venue for expanding my collection. There's a sleepy beach town I love that has zero pinball machines within about an hour's drive in any direction. Because you can't make money on pinball alone in a smallish space without tons of traffic I was thinking about buying a lot near the beach and leasing space to residential tenants or other business owners in a building I'd raise, leaving me around 1000 square feet for a dozen games and a few tables for people to hang out, have a snack, charge their phones or play tabletop games. Behind the modest token revenue and the tenant income would be merchandise sales, snacks and beverages, in-home game rentals and events.
    So I have a business plan. I have my eye on a lot three blocks from the water. I have a rough financial model. I'm looking for funding in a climate where lenders aren't interested in startups. What I'm most apprehensive about is that in order to satisfy my desire to spread the pleasure of pinball, I also need to get excited about managing the real estate and the leasing and the retail and a bunch of non-pinball stuff.
    What do you think? Am I gearing up to do something challenging and fun, or am I setting myself up to fall out of love with pinball? How do you scratch your "spread the love of pinball" itch without a seven-figure budget?

    A friend and I were planning on starting a similar venture pre covid, but without the low traffic issue you have. We both agreed pinball alone just isn't enough to cover expenses and provide enough profit to justify for us. I do think with the right location and business mix (specifically offerings other than pinball) that a profitable business can be established with a heavy pinball focus. Our goal at this point is to find an existing bar with space for games, then just split the earnings. I talked to several bar owners, and it's a bitch of an industry. That was another reason we put our plans on pause.

    #19 57 days ago

    Quick test: Take the part of your model that says you need to get X people in the door and spend $y per week.

    Go sit across the street from your proposed location. Count every single person that walks by the location for a few weekends. What % of those folks do you REALLY think are going to stop in and give you $y. Now, take your honest assessment and cut it in half. Does your model still work?

    You're trying to start two or three new business at once, none of which you seem to have significant experience. Pinball, Landlord, Bar. Yikes.

    #20 57 days ago
    Quoted from bkaelin:

    Smokey, my friend, you are entering a world of pain.
    ...Walter Sobchak

    Yeah but I wuddint over...

    #21 57 days ago

    I have zero experience except as a home arcade owner and location player. However, it is plainly obvious that a standalone arcade/parlor is not the prevailing business approach anymore. The pins have to be a COMPLEMENT to a business thriving with some other product. Even Dave & Busters is a restaurant as well.

    #22 57 days ago

    Have you checked the local buulding/zoning/legal restrictions and requirements?
    Is an arcade type business a permitted use in your planned location? What approvals do you need? Are there restrictions, taxes, or any other local hurdles to jump?

    #23 57 days ago

    pandemic only adds to the risk here, perhaps wait until gathering in public is less restricted.

    #24 57 days ago

    I was going to do something similar, but decided to put some pins at a local brewery. I really wanted to share my love of pinball, but there are so many things involved with opening my own business. Could there be someone in town you could “partner” up with and maybe place a couple pins out on location? That would be a good start before opening your own arcade.

    I have a couple friends who own arcades that have video games and pinball, and sadly pinball doesn’t get the play to justify the costs. Kids come in and just want to play Xbox/ps4. You’ll definitely need something to go along with pinball if you open your own place.

    #25 57 days ago

    If you do it, I think food and drink (alcohol) is the only way to make it a viable business.

    #26 57 days ago

    Based on your current location, I suspect I know the costal area being talked about (former PNW resident). And I have had similar thoughts about such a plan when I retire, but I've always assumed it would effectively loose money and simply justify my desire for a larger collection.

    You need to factor in how much of the town is rentals / seasonal. You might be able to make a go of it in the summer, but the off season is an issue. The problem with a lot of that coastal area with all the seasonal/rentals is that it is hard to establish a reliable customer base. People head there from PDX for a weekend away and usually just stay at the rental and the beach. You absolutely need to make it an all ages establishment, which makes it more complicated from a licensing standpoint since most profit is in drinks food. You would really need to do some good advertising along the coast to pull in people willing to drive 15min to entertain the kids on a rainy day - probably try to get a flyer into VBRO units.
    Honestly with the pandemic you are seriously stacking the deck against yourself in an endeavor that already has a very difficult margin of success. I suspect that breaking even on any loan will be impossible in any long run. If you are going to take out a loan then my strong advice is don't do this.

    If you do decide to make a go of it I really hope you succeed, since I would love some pinball when I make my costal trips.

    edit:
    The other factor is actually getting permanent tenants in the part of the building you want to lease out. No one else is really starting business in a pandemic, but even outside of that getting stable tenants is tricky and you need to be ready to handle times when you have no active leases. The reason most commercial property owners have multiple buildings is to buffer against vacancies - they can write off the losses on one property while all properties as a whole keep things afloat.

    #27 57 days ago

    I am so grateful for the clearheaded reality check and ideas in this thread; y'all are awesome. Please keep the discussion going!

    #28 57 days ago

    Have you ever ran a business? I'd caution from turning your passion into a job. Read the e myth before you go further

    -3
    #29 57 days ago

    Won’t it just get looted and burned? I hear its bad in Portland

    #30 57 days ago

    It would make things easier if pinball eventually gets a “reality” show .Gator hunters ,crab fisherman , pickers ,hoarders, mediums ,bunch of women who married $ sitting around complaining about shit ....Why not a pinball show?

    #31 57 days ago

    In your first post I see you have a rough financial model.
    In post 6 you are needing to borrow a bunch of money and it needs to be successful.
    These parts worry me a bit.

    Let's take a big step back and see if we can make something successful first with little risk.

    I see you have 8 machines in your collection. Do some smaller businesses that are already doing well have some room for these machines and you can see if the area likes pinball first? If so, great. You didn't have to invest anything and you are fulfilling your desire to spread the love of pinball and you don't have to worry about borrowers coming after you.

    #32 57 days ago
    Quoted from spblat:

    I'm looking for funding in a climate where lenders aren't interested in startups.

    I would think you are dead in the water right there.

    If you need money to make this happen, or most of it. Say 30% and you have 70%. Anything you might make wouldn't cover repaying funding.

    Ignoring COVID and sleepy town with very little business or who might not want an arcade to upset their sleepy town.

    Really do your homework if you move forward. Dreams are nice. But do your due diligence to be sure it isn't a nightmare.

    Besides zoning ordinances, licenses, and insurance. Any new business needs start up costs and a years worth of money to have a chance.

    Best wishes.
    LTG : )

    #33 57 days ago

    If you need to make money: then you need to run a successful bar with some pinball machines in the corner.

    If you have cheap rent, no loans, and can afford to break even or lose a little: then you can go for it.

    If you buy the building, and don't already have tenants in place: this is a very stressful time for that.

    If your main goal is to spread pinball to the masses: operate pins at an existing location. See how well it goes. See how much you like it.

    #34 57 days ago
    Quoted from bigehrl:

    it honestly sounds like you'll be a landlord/property manager, with some pinball machines to fix as a hobby.

    It sounds...like a lot of work. As I don't see myself as a real estate tycoon, my current feeling is danger will robinson. Also known as:

    Plus, the cornerstone of the plan to buffer against pinball losses is itself in need of additional buffers:

    Quoted from cistearns:

    The reason most commercial property owners have multiple buildings is to buffer against vacancies - they can write off the losses on one property while all properties as a whole keep things afloat.

    Quoted from Pinslot:

    I’m getting stomach acid just thinking about this. There has to be an easier way to acquire more pin space.

    Which, being honest, is probably the whole point. I'm not ready to say the dream is dead but the current approach I've been taking doesn't seem like it holds water.

    Heartfelt thanks also to Lloyd and Ryan for your wise words--two people who have done a particularly admirable job making our passion their profession. Which reminds me that it's probably time to build my next Comet order and start thinking about which JJP game should be my first

    #35 57 days ago
    Quoted from Budman:

    Three blocks off of a sleepy beach/town center seems To be a bad combo

    Our initial location was 1 block off the main downtown pedestrian mall and we might as well have been in Siberia. Bad location is hard to overcome. Not impossible, but it’s like tying your hand behind your back.

    #36 57 days ago

    Now is definitely not the time to open an arcade, especially in a sleepy town. I would wait until the end of the year and then run the numbers and pulse again. If your are thinking pinball alone, the others that have said you need something else to generate additional income are correct. I do not believe that beer or alcohol are the only answers though. My complimentary business is picture framing. Many people thought I was crazy and said I had to have beer or wine or alcohol, but I do not agree with them and three years after I added the arcade, I still don't. Our picture framing business has been around for 15 years and fortunately is doing just fine during this COVID chaos (and my state was one of the first to shut down). It helps that I am in the SF Bay Area (not a sleepy town). The pinball arcade still can not be completely open for normal business, but we at least have households and locals making reservations or framing clients enjoying the machines during or after their framing appointments. The arcade/machine operation portion is essentially operating at a loss, but it is better to keep games on and lit up than off (older pins especially do not like to be off for extended periods of time). Running a small business right now is about making less money while doing more work... Think about that one.

    #37 57 days ago

    What about building an Airbnb with an arcade? A local collector built an Airbnb and a large arcade on his property using storage containers and is renting them out. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/17170419?s=67&unique_share_id=7b85e074-8c2b-449c-a100-ffd197fa8808

    #38 57 days ago
    Quoted from bluespin:

    What about building an Airbnb with an arcade? A local collector built an Airbnb and a large arcade on his property using storage containers and is renting them out. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/17170419?s=67&unique_share_id=7b85e074-8c2b-449c-a100-ffd197fa8808

    That is an unbelievably interesting idea.

    #39 57 days ago
    Quoted from spblat:

    That is an unbelievably interesting idea.

    The operator already had a house with a pool on a decent sized piece of land. The “house” he rents is small, but the arcade is large. He seems to be doing well with the Airbnb rentals precovid. Keep in mind that he lives their so cleans the rental after the guests leave and does most of the pin and arcade repairs himself.

    #40 57 days ago

    Are you independently wealthy?

    If you can support it from your other income then I’d say go for it. Being able to right off every pinball purchase is a plus. Specially if you have income from other sources that you need to shelter

    #41 57 days ago
    Quoted from V8haha:

    Being able to right off every pinball purchase is a plus.

    I do this all the time, post something, and because the word is spelled correctly I never notice.

    Not to be a asshole, but I am sure you meant write off, instead of right off. I make the same mistakes, and so funny how we all do.

    As far as my advice to the OP, hell no!

    I have had rental property for 17 years now, and only the last 3 years have I finally been able to relax a tad.

    Starting a arcade and rental business at the same time, HELL NO!

    LTG says it best:

    Quoted from LTG:

    Really do your homework if you move forward. Dreams are nice. But do your due diligence to be sure it isn't a nightmare.

    Besides zoning ordinances, licenses, and insurance. Any new business needs start up costs and a years worth of money to have a chance.

    I have been self employed most of my life, and others came to me asking for advice, and not one has had funds saved to have a years worth of money in case things do not go as planned.

    I have never been rich, and I borrowed from lenders for the rental properties, but every business I have ever started I never borrowed a dime.

    BUT, it is nice to dream, and try to make plans. I dream all the time about things I would kind of like to try.

    Never stop thinking and dreaming, and hopefully you can find a low risk way to make all your dreams come true.

    #42 57 days ago

    It is a sleepy seaside town
    you state that you want to build and bring more businesses into the area
    are all the current business buildings full or are there many vacancies?
    can the area support a handful of new businesses coming to the area?
    can you afford it if 2 or 3 of your new shop fronts take years to find good tenants ?

    #43 57 days ago

    Says you are in Portland?
    based on that no frickin way Dude.

    #44 57 days ago

    To answer your question; Yes, but it would be cool. Funland in Seaside and Long Beach rely on redemption games and the Arc in Astoria didn’t make it. Dodge City closed up and the pins ended up at the Roadhouse in Chinooke. A friend of mine gave up on routing games due to the constant calls for jammed coins and stuck balls. You probably won’t make money on your pins, but I’ll come play them.

    #45 57 days ago

    If this is your passion, then DO IT!! You'll never know what will happen if you don't!! The public is a funny animal, you never know what they are thinking, or,what they react to!! To hell with the Bar idea, but to offer soft drinks and snacks would do the trick!!Remember,there isn't a whole lot to do in the Winter months, and I know Oregon isn't that bad during Winter,so,it will give the kids somewhere to hang out!!

    #46 57 days ago

    There’s a story that goes like this: a guy is sitting in a cafe, drinking a coffee and enjoying the scenery. He says to himself, “wow, I’d love to be able to do this all the time, I should start my own cafe.”

    So he does, at which point he realizes that he never has time to sit and enjoy a coffee because he a now running a business - cleaning, serving, doing the books, taking inventory, deliveries, maintenance, unclogging toilets, taxes, permits, licensing...

    Basically, you’re only seeing the tiny 5% of work that will need to be done. You should just sit in the cafe and enjoy it. Running a business is a full time job, let alone three businesses.

    #47 57 days ago
    Quoted from spblat:

    Hi friends. So I want people to enjoy pinball. I want them to enjoy my games and I want a venue for expanding my collection. There's a sleepy beach town I love that has zero pinball machines within about an hour's drive in any direction. Because you can't make money on pinball alone in a smallish space without tons of traffic I was thinking about buying a lot near the beach and leasing space to residential tenants or other business owners in a building I'd raise, leaving me around 1000 square feet for a dozen games and a few tables for people to hang out, have a snack, charge their phones or play tabletop games. Behind the modest token revenue and the tenant income would be merchandise sales, snacks and beverages, in-home game rentals and events.
    So I have a business plan. I have my eye on a lot three blocks from the water. I have a rough financial model. I'm looking for funding in a climate where lenders aren't interested in startups. What I'm most apprehensive about is that in order to satisfy my desire to spread the pleasure of pinball, I also need to get excited about managing the real estate and the leasing and the retail and a bunch of non-pinball stuff.
    What do you think? Am I gearing up to do something challenging and fun, or am I setting myself up to fall out of love with pinball? How do you scratch your "spread the love of pinball" itch without a seven-figure budget?

    Seems like the appeal of a sleepy beach town in Oregon is that there is nothing there. I was at one a couple of weeks ago and pinball was far from my mind. In Oregon, I’ll do pinball destination trips to places like Next Level in Hillsboro, but the whole appeal of the sort of place you are talking about is to get away from everything and enjoy the ocean.

    #48 57 days ago

    You'd be absolutely crazy to open anything pinball related anywhere, let alone a sleepy beach town.

    #49 57 days ago
    Quoted from Coz:

    I was going to do something similar, but decided to put some pins at a local brewery. I really wanted to share my love of pinball, but there are so many things involved with opening my own business. Could there be someone in town you could “partner” up with and maybe place a couple pins out on location? That would be a good start before opening your own arcade.
    I have a couple friends who own arcades that have video games and pinball, and sadly pinball doesn’t get the play to justify the costs. Kids come in and just want to play Xbox/ps4. You’ll definitely need something to go along with pinball if you open your own place.

    This is in line with my suggestion. Partner up with an established business.

    You seem to be interested in spreading the love of pinball, but not so much in the property management side of things, so why take the financial risk and draining of your time?

    Also, expanding onto your home or adding a building on your property would add value to your house, extend more area for games, and allow you to throw pinball parties and tournaments at your place. It is the best of both worlds.

    #50 57 days ago

    I have thought about opening several types of arcades in my area. I have not given up on this idea but covid has put a damper in things. I would wait a while before deciding to open anything for the most part for the next 12 months or so.

    Still, I'm one of those guys who wants to perpetuate the arcade forever, too.

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