“If you want control over your company, open the mail every morning.” That business dictum is attributed to the late, great Sam Stern. I remembered that when I was opening the RePlay subscription mail this morning and, not for the first time, read the company names that route owners around the country decided to use when they first went into business. The most common word used, I’m guessing, is “Amusement,” along with “Vending” and to a lesser extent, “Music.”
Sam himself spent most of his long coin-op career working at a place named for an individual person, like Seeburg, Williams and obviously, his and son Gary’s own Stern Electronics. Some over the years used their full names, such as New York distributor Albert Simon and his Philadelphia buddy David Rosen. Then you have companies with names saying that they’re the best of the bunch serving the territory, such as Paramount and Superior.
My personal favorite was the late Al Kress’ decision to name his Elmsford, N.Y. coin machine distributing company “Coin Machine Distributors.” When he opened his doors, I told him that was one really dull name. He answered: “When somebody’s looking to buy a pinball machine, where do you think they’re gonna look…Joe Blow Sales?” He made a point, so why’d he name his Florida game plant Benchmark?
I picked the name RePlay because it means the freebee you get by winning a game, and is a positive, coin-op word. It turned out that it was already being used by some chap in England on a pinball fancier’s newsletter (he was nice enough to tell me he wanted to change the name anyway). Trivia time: My original name was to be “Playmeter,” but way before we started publishing, a “tip sheet” in the country music business had grabbed it and, some time later, so did my former competitor Ralph Lally. I still have paperwork using that name on a jukebox record popularity poll I did back in my Cash Box magazine days.
Speaking of which, many people in the recording industry must have wondered why a recording industry trade magazine was named for something you found inside a jukebox cabinet. Well, Cash Box began as a used equipment price list, then flopped over into a record magazine after getting ads from labels looking to sell their new singles to jukebox operators. Billboard, their competitor, started out well over a hundred years ago to cover … are you ready? … the companies that owned and operated billboards! Yes, those big signs you drive past on the highway!