Looking for some advice from operators out there who run an actual standalone pin museum. Soooo I was provided some space at reasonable rent to store my pinball machines and let our league play. We knew our building was eventually going to be raised to build a new office building, so it was time limited. We decided what the hell lets open this to the public and see what happens. 33 pins from my personal collection, 1300 sq ft, 10 video games just for kicks, open Fri nite, Sat nite, Sun afternoon to keep it sane. If you are wondering where www.paulspinballpalace.net https://www.facebook.com/CVILLEPINBALL/ $10 all you can play. No alcohol
Been open two months. Life was great to begin with. Print and TV news sought us out, pulling in about 40 people a nite and another 40 on Sunday. Of course we knew as with any business novelty and free press will get you somewhere. So never trust the opening numbers. It started to wane some (quite a bit actually), so that we were averaging 15-20 per nite. Did a little print/radio advertising so it was more in the 18-25 range, though not sure I attribute it entirely to that.
Well we dived off a cliff recently and had less than 10 customers a nite this week.
Now we get until August to experiment around some. And as with most operators in this business, my day job as a physician more than covers any losses here. I am not doing this to make a living. But I can't go on running a loss leader here forever. And I can't have this as some massive time suck when I have other responsibilities in life and it doesn't pay any of the bills. Our goal is to just cover rent and maybe a $10 per hour attendant so that I (and our volunteer league members) don't have to be there all the time.
1) College town (well maybe a pro, our demographic seems to be more 30-50 and kids than 20 something).
2) We have a pretty decent sized league with 20 players routinely each paying $5 per session to help support this.
3) Charlottesville is eclectic enough it should be able to support something like this. Ashville, Danville, Richmond, and Roanoke are all within 2-5 hours and they seem to make it work.
4) Capital is sunk and covered, really only need to cover rent, insurance, utilities and a part time employee at most. Nobody is making a living off this.
5) Can depreciate machines which helps cover some of the losses.
6) With the whole Thomas Jefferson thing and University of Virginia it is certainly a tourist destination and already put us on Trip Advisor.
1) Although we are less than 100 yards from downtown where there is huge foot traffic, we are the equivalent of in a back alley around a corner where there is absolutely ZERO foot traffic. You wouldn't find us unless you were really looking for us. We literally don't exist. Selected location not by choice but by opportunity that grew into something we threw the doors open to public. Never intended to have a pinmuseum.
2) We serve no food, we serve no alcohol. This is not a barcade, though maybe it should be
3) Rent in Cville is ridiculous and vacancy rates downtown are about zero. On the mall itself averages $18-20 sq ft/yr. Pinball machines take alot of space.
4) I already have 4 different jobs I do and unless it can be partially self sufficient the personal time suck it going to do it in.
5) We have not really done a ton of promotion here to try to lift this off the ground
6) Cville is only about 40,000 people. Maybe not enough pinball lovers to make this work.
1) For those that have been thru this and are still in business, what did your trajectory look like ? How long until your losses went to zero. I don't care losing some money, I just can't do it forever.
2) Alcohol - whats the verdict here, necessary evil ... might as well be running a restaurant OR not really needed it can work without it ?
3) Location - how much of your business is those who seek you out wherever you are/repeat customers versus new incidental foot traffic that wandered by ?
4) Promotions - what are you doing to promote your business ?
5) Pricing - where is your sweet spot, $10 all you can play seems actually on the low side from what I've seen ?
6) Hours - how often are you open, when do you find your best traffic is ?
7) Demographics - who plays at your place ?
8) Private events - what do you charge and how much of your business is this ?
9) Machine mix - what is your mix of video games and pinball and how do you think that affects your customer base (yes I know I am asking on a pinball forum which will complicate any answers)
Thanks in advance for the help. If this is something you don't want to share by forum, happy to have you PM me individuall and talk by phone.
The reason I need to answer these questions myself is that I have to decide in 3 months whether to move it (where and what square footage am I willing to gamble on), or just close the damn thing and put these pins back in storage or maybe finally sell some off. Would love to keep this going if I can find a way to make it work.