Against the back wall of his new Gameroom Superstores in
"They are truly works of art," Russo said inside his store. And it's art that can be played with, too.
Russo, who operates Saturn 5 Family Entertainment Center in
The shop carries retired, new and used arcade games, pinball machines, billiards tables, slot machines and card tables. The store warranties the machines they sell and provides in-home and in-store repair service.
"We do fun for a living," he said.
Russo first started his Gameroom Superstores as Apollo Amusements in 1987 and at its peak had locations in
"We carry everything you can clearly live without in a time of dire need," Russo deadpanned. "No one ever loses their job in 2006, 2007 and says, 'Holy crap, we better go buy a pinball machine, honey."
Now that the economy is rebounding and
lowed Russo -- who saw "game over" -- to pop in a few quarters to start his shop up again.
"Now we're recovered and the place is bigger and better than ever," Russo said.
The machines can fetch about
The pinball machines, especially the older ones, are works of art. Determining the age of these machines is all in the scoreboard.
"The old machines have the numbers that roll over," Russo said, pointing to the
That gave way to alpha-numeric boards, then dot matrix machines that grew in size. In another corner he has a refurbished Ms. Pac-Man and in another one, an arcade cabinet refurbished that could be programmed to hold up to 60 arcade games in a single machine.
"Then they tried different ways to shoot the ball," Panitch said, pointing to the pistols acting as triggers.
Russo's love for games started as a child's passion for arcades, first seeing a game room at a friend's basement in
"I bought one game, sold it and used the money to buy two more," Russo said, starting out with an ad in the
He kept collecting until his house -- from the dining room to the living room and his son's bedroom -- were overtaken by arcade games.
"When you're a collector, it's like selling one of your kids," Russo said.
So he started buying games that didn't mean as much to him and had sold those, and the collection of new and used games and billiards tables turned into a store.
"It's like selling crack cocaine," he joked. "As soon as someone gets one, that's the threshold you gotta cross. You'll spend on an Xbox and games as much as you would on one of these."
Russo's introduction to
"Both Simon and Mason Asset have done everything they could do to make it comfortable for me to be here," Russo said. "Now, they have done nothing to the building, obviously. But they've done everything they could do to prop me up financially and make it comfortable for me to invest heavily in this building."
His timing for opening will be a bit awkward because Macy's announced Thursday it will leave
He hopes the new owners don't turn the mall into an outdoor lifestyle center. He had an offer once to open in the
"I like the fact that customers are constricted to three or four main entrances. If I'm in here and somebody wants to go to Macy's, they have to walk by me and happen upon me," Russo said. "That's advertising dollars, is what that becomes, being aware of my place."
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