Take a walk in downtown Mission and you might discover what many feel is a hidden gem.
Often mistaken for an arcade, Nitro Amusements is a showroom for the latest high-tech pinball machines as well as restored games from the 1960s and up.
The showroom and repair shop is one of the largest in Western Canada and co-owners Tommy Floyd and Don Arnold say many pinball fanatics are shocked to find it nestled in Mission’s downtown core.
Despite being based in Mission, the company caters to customers from across the province, into Alberta, Saskatchewan and across the border.
“Being based in Mission works for us. We live here. We support Mission and actively sponsor events. This is a great location,” said Floyd.
The idea for the company began five years ago when Floyd started the pinball club Flipper Freaks.
He noticed that many members had purchased their own machines off online bidding sites. Many were in disrepair and there were few places to turn to for parts and service.
Floyd knew that Arnold had a long history of repairing and maintaining pinball machine and the two men joined forces.
Arnold said he put a lot of thought into the decision before agreeing.
“Is it just us that loves this or are there really that many people out there who love it and support it?” Arnold asked himself.
Turns out there are plenty of people who would love to own a pinball machine.
“A lot of people are rediscovering pinball,” said Arnold.
The game was immensely popular in the 1970s and customers often search for the machines they used to play in college or at their local arcades.
Nostalgia plays a big role for many customers.
They remember playing the game as kids and now that they are in their 50s, they have more disposable income.
“As mature adults, they have man caves or rec rooms and want to relive those old memories, relive their youth,” said Arnold.
Floyd agrees, adding that 90 per cent of sales are to people who want a machine for their games room.
But it isn’t just memories that are making pinball popular again. Pinball is in a resurgence.
“People are still shocked to discover that new pinball machines are manufactured,” said Floyd, adding that companies like Stern have managed to keep the game alive.
“They kept making machines when pinball was in the dark ages.”
In the 1980s, video games, like Nintendo, almost killed pinball. Arcades shut down as gamers stayed at home to play on the new video consoles.
But Stern and other companies continued to release new machines with better titles and improved play. Pinball became exciting again.
Another company that helped keep pinball alive is Heighway Pinball.
“They are the first pinball manufacturing company out of the United Kingdom,” said Floyd.
The company’s latest game is called Full Throttle. It is one of the fastest wide-body pinball games ever made.
Mission’s Nitro Amusements is the exclusive distributor for Heighway Pinball in Canada.
And that’s not the only feather in the local company’s cap.
Last month, Floyd and Arnold were in Chicago to attend the Chicago Pinball Expo. At the event, it was announced that Nitro would be the Canadian distributor for Dutch Pinball’s newest release – The Big Lebowski. The game is based on the popular movie of the same name.
“In Canada, the only place to get it is from Mission,” said Floyd proudly.
Other new titles that are bringing pinball into the 21st Century include games based on Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead.
“There’s an entire generation out there that has missed pinball and it’s a shame because pinball is a great thing that the whole family can do,” said Arnold.
While selling new and refurbished machines and running a repair shop keeps both men busy, they still spend a lot of time organizing the pinball club.
“We are hardcore pinheads,” said Floyd.
The Flipper Freaks has one of the largest memberships in all of Canada. The group meets the last Saturday of the month, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Nitro Amusements.
For more, visit nitroamusements.com.