Decades Later & Still Going Strong
Hamilton, NJ’s Capitol City Vending Keeps Growing After 40-Plus Years
by Matt Harding
Steve Russo and his younger brother Chuck are long-timers in the industry, having started as operators in the late 1970s at age 17 and 16, respectively.
“We were in high school,” Steve Russo explained. “My father owned a bar and he always had his own cigarette machine in there. It was kind of his idea.” They got together enough money to get a Space Invaders cocktail table into the bar as well. “I was always enthralled with the video game aspect,” he added.
By 1981, after learning the operating basics, the brothers purchased Capitol City Vending, a route that was established in the 1940s and ran about 100 cigarette machines.
They slowly grew the outfit’s offerings – starting with jukeboxes, amusements and full-line vending. Over the years, they bought out more than a dozen companies of various sizes, and further expanded the route by soliciting new locations.
The biggest growth came around 13 years ago when they acquired CIC Corp., Coast Amusements and Royal Vending.
“Most of our growth came from word of mouth, good service, salesmen on the street, knocking on doors and – moving forward – websites and social media,” Russo said.
Today, the Hamilton, N.J.-based street operation has about 30 employees and covers roughly 15 counties in two states – New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They have more than 3,500 machines on the route.
In addition to the jukes, games, cigarette machines and vending services, Capitol City added ATMs about a decade ago, something that is flourishing for them. In fact, Russo said ATMs, jukeboxes and pool tables provide the company’s biggest ROI. They also have office coffee and water services available.
“We run the whole gamut,” he added. “You’ve got to be diversified in this business.”
Since becoming involved with Amusement Connect, they’ve been getting more and more into the arcade business, too – installing different-sized game rooms in places like bowling alleys and golf facilities. “Once the card system came out, it just seemed like a no-brainer to me,” Russo said.
Their first arcade went into a bowling alley about five years ago. The nearly 10 arcades installed by Capitol City range in size from 15 games to about 40 pieces.
The arcade at Adventure Crossing in Jackson, N.J., is their most recent project. That indoor-outdoor venue is a sprawling complex with a Tracer Golf dome (think TopGolf), sports bar, axe throwing, and baseball, lacrosse and soccer fields. Phase two will add a hotel, bowling alley and convention center. Russo said their small part was adding a 15-game arcade, which includes pool tables.
Capitol City also operates Del-Vue Arcade Club in Lambertville, N.J. It has about 35 machines, including a dozen retro games, a handful of pinballs and a typical lineup of basketballs, driving games, cranes and billiards.
Other popular games out on location include boxers, Jurassic Park, Halo: Fireteam Raven, air hockey tables, Injustice Arcade and Big Buck Hunter. Those boxers, Jurassic Park and cranes are among the route’s biggest earners.
“We’re looking at a few mall locations now and have another bowling alley location coming up,” Russo noted. “We’re always adding more bar and street locations weekly as well.” In addition to working with Amusement Connect, they’re also AMI and TouchTunes operators.
The business was recently approved by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to begin doing business with casinos and in the past few months has been placing equipment in both states.
“Our team of 30 employees have done a great job representing us,” Russo said. “We have great partnerships with our customers. They really appreciate our service, our team and our top-notch equipment.”
Learn more at www.capitolcityvending.com.