Glenn Streeter just announced the sale of the legendary jukebox factory Rock-Ola to British games and jukebox entrepreneur Alexander Walder-Smith of The Games Room Company. Streeter had purchased the 91-year-old company in 1992.
The new owner said he intends to keep the factory in its present Torrance, Calif., location and ensured employees not only that they will keep their jobs but will play a vital role in the continued success of the company.
Those in the amusement business will be glad to know that the company will continue to build jukeboxes for the industry, Streeter said, with a keen eye on the expanding diner and themed restaurant market, as well as the home collector.
Walder-Smith’s initial plans are to revolutionize Rock-Ola’s presence by manufacturing a brand-new 45 rpm vinyl jukebox, first within the striking, nostalgic Bubbler cabinetry and later in a new 1950s-style machine. These vinyl boxes will not only feature a powerful, state-of-the-art speaker system but also music streaming from phones and tablets, thereby representing a unique blend of classic 1950s styling and 21st century technology.
“Now it’s Alexander’s job to carry Rock-Ola to the 100th anniversary,” Streeter said as the two men shook hands celebrating the deal, which privately occurred at a lunch meeting with employees on June 26.
Rock-Ola was founded in 1927 by David C. Rockola, who began manufacturing scales and other coin-op devices. Its first jukebox hit the market in 1934. His name on jukeboxes is even believed to have inspired the term “rock and roll.”
Streeter, an antique radio collector turned jukebox restoration specialist and manufacturer, founded his Antique Apparatus company in the late 1970s to produce nostalgia-style boxes. When he learned the famed Rock-Ola was up for sale, he jumped at the opportunity, moving it from its long-time home in Chicago to Torrance.
Walder-Smith has overseen a spectacular period of growth with his British-based luxury games and jukebox business, The Games Room Company. (The firm’s roots go back to the post-World War II era when his father Reginald began operating amusement equipment on U.S. Air Force bases in Great Britain.)
Rock-Ola has been one of Walder-Smith’s key suppliers as they manufacture the prestigious and instantly recognizable Bubbler, with its rotating, multi-colored pilasters and ascending air bubbles. Rock-Ola’s pioneering designs have shaped the popular image of jukeboxes over the last 91 years, and the company now boasts it to be “the only authentic jukebox factory left in America.”
“Our two companies have a shared history dating back decades,” Streeter said. “The Games Room Company is the official U.K. retailer of Rock-Ola jukeboxes and has been selling and restoring vintage jukeboxes since 1962. With their peerless knowledge of the background and workings of these products, The Games Room Company was a natural choice to take the helm.”
Streeter will stay on for the next two years as company president and help expand the company’s product line beyond jukeboxes into more home entertainment and recreational room products.
“This is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am pleased to be working with Glenn and the long-standing team at Rock-Ola as we take the company towards it centenary,” Walder-Smith said. “This is one of America’s great iconic brands –– up there with Harley-Davidson and Jack Daniel’s – and as we move into the exciting next stage, we’ll be dramatically raising its profile across the world.
“Using our expertise in these products and knowledge of marketing, we will capitalize on the vinyl trend and introduce the only authentic, American-manufactured 45 rpm vinyl jukebox to the world,” he concluded.