Back around 2008, in the early stages of what we now call the Great Recession, we had to report bad news about operators throwing in the towel due to the kick in the collection bucket that came with that financial crisis. I remember talking with Colorado’s well-known operator/distributor Rich Babich who said, “Many of us out here are working twice as hard for half the money.” I also remember Betson’s Rick Kirby saying, “Eddie, we may not be eating lobster anymore but we’re still eating steak.” The point should be obvious and, yes, the business ultimately improved.
Somewhere around mid-March of this year, local and state governments began locking the doors on restaurants, bars and FECs in their attempt to stave off the growing Covid-19 virus epidemic. I’d like to say a “circus of pain” was visited on coin-op, but it wasn’t –– and isn’t –– funny. Here at the industry’s magazine, we grabbed whatever was necessary to do our jobs remotely and left the office for home. We also decided to keep our enterprise going as close to the norm we all knew rather than suspend print publication like some other magazines have done.
Our specific mission was and remains dispensing information to a specific niche industry. Some of that news is crucial for our readers to know and the time to know it was immediate. So, we upped our 3-times-a-week Instant RePlay online newsletter to 5 and “tent-bound” the magazine itself to save a buck on the printing process. That decision is still in force, and if you want to know the truth, I’m extremely proud that our staff has knuckled down and done what I think has been a stellar job getting the word out there –– the good and bad, the promising and painful that always come with these crises.
Inside this issue, you’ll find stories about a bunch of coin-op people who, like Rich Babich once said, are working twice as hard for less money in order to keep their own enterprises alive and ready when that longed-for vaccine, along with more effective medical treatments for the virus-stricken, comes along. Some have had to battle with government to get fair play, while others have rented or sold equipment to home owners. Some have had to let veteran people go, while others have found ways to keep most on the payroll. When you’re done reading my blah, blah, go and see for yourself how your brothers and sisters have risen to the challenge.
I myself want to publicly thank Key and the other RePlay staffers for rising to this challenge, and for setting an example of how to make lemonade out of lemons. She, Barry, Ingrid and “Mr. Newsletter” Matt Harding have taken this crisis by its horns to tell it like it is and not sugarcoat what is this industry’s latest, and perhaps greatest, challenge in its history. What else needs saying here other than “Good job, gang!”