Today, the New York Times profiles Gary Stern, the owner of the last pinball-machine manufacturing company in the world. "To most," Times profiler Monica Davey says, "the story seems familiar." Well, it seemed familiar to us! Because in March of 2005, BusinessWeek profiled Gary Stern, the owner of the last pinball-machine manufacturing company in the world. Let's see what else these stories have in common!
In both pieces we learn that the last competing pinball company folded in 1999. We learn Bert's history in the pinball business. We learn that his warehouse is 40,000 square feet. He makes 10,000 machines a year. Flippers were invented in 1947. Oh, and we talk to this guy.
BW: "For Gary, pinball is absolutely something that's near and dear to his heart," says Roger Sharpe, an industry veteran still employed by WMS and author of Pinball!, which chronicles the game's history. "It's something he believes in wholeheartedly, it's something he has been around his whole life. It's kismet."
Times: Mr. Stern's father, Samuel Stern, spent his life in the pinball business, starting out as a game operator in the 1930s — when a simple version of the modern mass-produced pinball machine first appeared. Dozens of companies were soon producing the machines, said Roger Sharpe, widely considered a foremost historian of the sport after the 1977 publication of his book, "Pinball!"
The creation of the flipper — popularized by the Humpty Dumpty game in 1947 — transformed the activity, which went on to surges in the 1950s, '70s and early '90s.
"Everybody thinks of it as retro, as nostalgia," Mr. Sharpe said. "But it's not. These are sophisticated games. Pinball is timeless."
Business overseas has picked up a bit!
BW: About 35% of Stern's sales now come from overseas — primarily in Western Europe but also in growing markets such as Russia and China. [...] Stern credits the stable sales of traditional pinball machines to increases in nostalgic home buyers, which now account for roughly 20% of total sales — and the number keeps growing. Retailers include Sharper Image (SHRP ). Stern Pinball doesn't sell machines directly to consumers, instead relying on a network of 33 distributors throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
Times:In the United States, Mr. Stern said, half of his new machines, which cost about $5,000 and are bought through distributors, now go directly into people's homes and not a corner arcade. He said nearly 40 percent of the machines — some designed to appeal to French, German, Italian and Spanish players — were exported, and he added that he had been working to make inroads in China, India, the Middle East and Russia.
There are a couple more similarities too, though no precise duplication of language or passages that we could find in our cursory examination. Obviously two stories about the last pinball-machine maker in the world will resemble each other. But did we even need the second one? No. No we did not. See y'all at Barcade!
(lol j/k that place is always full of assholes.)