What’s Between the Spaces
Revisiting an Old Column as Year-End Reflections Loom
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
This month I’m front and center, very humbled to be on the cover of RePlay Magazine. For the photo, I brought along a person who has worked with me since 1996, Larry Appice. Larry came across the street from McDonald’s to work as a fry cook in my amusement center at the time, Fuzzy’s Family Fun Factory. Within days, Larry became an assistant manager and then GM. It was his management of Fuzzy’s that enabled me to spend time as a consultant and then COO of Mondial Distributing in New Jersey and State Sales.
Larry was responsible for hundreds of guests, mostly children, having birthday parties. He had baseball leagues using batting cages, Grandma playing mini golf, hundreds of kids in the huge two-story, climb-and-slide and around 200 birthday parties a month. He ordered all the food and product, repaired all the games and managed all the employees and their schedules, as well as the kitchen.
When it was sunny outside and a party host went to the beach instead of coming to work, Larry figured out how to cover that shift. When a customer had a complaint, Larry fixed it with game tokens, food or a cherry Slush Puppy. He figured it out and made people smile. Even today, people still talk fondly about Fuzzy’s.
In late 1999, I sold the fun center and started PinballSales.com. I didn’t know what place Larry would have at the new company, but since he learned to service games at Fuzzy’s and because of his passion to take care of the customers and his work ethic, I knew there would be a place for him.
For the next 10 years (and then some), Larry restored used pinball machines and serviced new ones. He took hundreds of games apart, made complete restorations or repairs and put them back together better than they were. Larry even did the restoration artwork on the games. He opened hundreds of boxes of new pinball machines and prepped them before delivery. He went out on hundreds of deliveries and service calls to commercial locations and homes. He met the elite of our customers and treated every one like his own mom, dad, brother or sister.
Over the years, Larry learned everything there is to know about what makes pinball tick, including the little design flaws of hundreds of games, what works and what should be avoided. He also learned about people: how to manage, compliment and encourage them, as well as how to be critical without knocking them down. He learned more about himself, too, and when I started Jersey Jack Pinball, the first rock that I built the company on was none other than Larry Appice.
In these past eight years, Larry has learned so much more. He turned an empty building into a pinball factory, went to amusement shows all over the country, became a young grandpa, is in an amazing relationship with the love of his life and is getting ready to put JJP game #5 on the assembly line.
I’m blessed to say that there are a few other people who’ve been working with me for more than 10 or 15 years. However, I am most proud of Larry, his work ethic, honesty, loyalty and experience based on his body of work and accomplishments. Larry went to college to be a graphic artist and, yes, he is talented as that, but I can tell you that the experience he has in management of people and processes cannot be achieved in any short stay at a university. Experience by doing is the best teacher, but that takes time. People like Larry are built over time, just like our games. Larry put in the time and is priceless.
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at [email protected] jerseyjackpinball.com.