With the flashing yellow-tinted lights and the clinking and ringing of the pinball machines in The Machine SHOP, it’s easy for one to think they were teleported to an arcade in the ‘70s. But this is 2016, and this is Langley’s newest spot for entertainment.
The Machine SHOP, located at 630 Second Street in Langley in the space formerly occupied by Island Time Fitness, opened its doors on Saturday with a grand opening of epic proportions, with hundreds of people coming into the arcade throughout the day and night. Local bands played during the house warming party while gamers lined up to play on pinball machines of an era gone by.
The arcade is a culmination of owner Tim Leonard’s hobbies: collector’s item pinball machines, building and fixing things, lights and art. Leonard’s 25 or so pinball machines are exclusively electromechanical machines, a model that pinball companies halted production of in 1979, Leonard said. Today’s pinball machines are digitized, using circuit boards and digital displays rather than electromechanical relays and scoring reels. Leonard says with the new “fancy pants machines,” the sound and feel gamers once experienced with the old machines is lost.
“You can just feel the machine moving and working as the ball pings around and you work the flippers,” Leonard said. “It’s exciting, and I just love the sound of the old machines. You don’t really see any electromechanical machines in arcades now.”
Leonard has plans to turn the arcade into a hub for Langley’s arts. The walls are decked out with his own light fixtures, which he builds in his shop; Leonard also intends to display local artists’ work in his arcade space. Monthly concerts are planned for the first Saturday of every month as part of the Langley Art Walk.
The Machine SHOP is essentially Leonard’s creative outlet. The owner of Heavy Metal Works, a custom metal shop that builds structures and art from metals as well as light fixtures, Leonard is always working on multiple projects. About five years ago he began collecting retro pinball machines, and in the process learned how to fix and build them from scratch. As the years passed and space in his living room became sparse due to his pinball machines, he had to find a solution.
“I have 25 or so machines, so I had to do something,” Leonard said. “I was either going to start selling them or make a business.”
When Island Time Fitness left the rental space in the old Langley building in May, Sundance Bakery owner Kelly Baugh reached out to Leonard. Sundance Bakery is next door to the arcade, and the businesses share an entrance.
Leonard says it was the perfect fit. He didn’t have to worry about noise being an issue, given Baugh’s time growing up with machinery in a noisy city like Chicago, and Baugh was looking forward to the additional business for her bakery.
They hashed out an arrangement where bakery employees would monitor the arcade when Leonard wasn’t present, keeping costs low for him. Rent is cheap given the shared space and he hasn’t hired any other employees for the arcade due to Baugh’s offer to keep an eye on the place. The deal was crucial, as arcades have been struggling to stay afloat these days since quarters don’t have the value they once did in the arcade heyday, Leonard said.
“I draw people into the bakery, they draw people into the arcade — it’s a very symbiotic relationship,” Leonard said. “There’s also the laundromat next door, so you can play pinball while your laundry is drying.”
Langley mayor Tim Callison is excited about the prospect of having a business up the hill on Second Street where kids and old timers alike can have fun. He said the arcade offers kids a place to hang out after school, something that is in short supply in Langley.
Callison believes the arcade could increase foot traffic to the west side of town, as well as providing a place for local artists and musicians to show off their talent, including Leonard. He says the arcade has become Leonard’s gallery of sorts, and applauded its dual usage of entertainment and art.
“The arcade brings a little bit of edginess combined with a retro feel that takes people back to their days when they were kids,” Callison said. “I think he’s captured that pretty well.”
Langley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michaleen McGarry pointed out that the arcade brings something different to Langley. At the grand opening, she says she noticed it drew in a large amount of young people, and was happy to see people make the trek up the hill.
“I think it’s going to add more diversity regarding what we have to offer in terms of entertainment in Langley,” McGarry said. “There was the full gamut of ages there, and I thought that was fun.”