A new pinball arcade on Columbia Pike is putting a spin on the traditional pay-per-play arcade experience.
Players can enjoy unlimited gameplay without needing cash or coins for $40 a month or $10 a day.
Co-founded by pinball enthusiasts Fred Freimark and Jason Good, the arcade in Penrose is outfitted with nine themed machines, ranging from classics such as Jurassic Park to modern hits including Deadpool.
Good, who embraced the pinball world within the last decade, and Freimark, a lifelong player, first crossed paths last January while playing in a local pinball league at CarPool in Ballston.
They quickly bonded over their shared love of the game, and a few months after their initial meeting, Freimark — who owns 18 pinball machines and has a full-time job as a loan officer — shared with Good his long-held dream of opening a standalone arcade.
Good, who purchased a pinball machine during the pandemic, was familiar with how to fix the machines and suggested teaming up to turn Freimark’s dream into reality.
“Fred was running out of space for his machines, so I kind of pitched the idea; I was like, ‘Well, why don’t we open an arcade,'” Good said.
Freimark and Good envisioned a family-friendly standalone pinball arcade where pinball enthusiasts of all skill levels could gather.
They wanted to avoid opening an arcade inside a bar, where most of Arlington’s pinball machines are located. This includes Galaxy Hut in Clarendon, Highline RxR in Crystal City, Punch Bowl Social in Ballston and Quarterdeck in Ft. Myer Heights, according to pinballmap.com.
“All the other pinball places are in bars,” Freimark said. “Families and younger kids can be here, and it can be a whole new generation of people that are comfortable taking their kids to play pinball.”
Pinball is making a comeback in America. As part of this nostalgia-driven revival, Good and Freimark say they have witnessed a surge in demand for neutral venues where experienced players can hone their skills and beginners can learn the ropes.
Instead, in most venues today, playing pinball is almost an impulse decision, says Good, where players drop $1 in to play but have “no idea what they’re doing or what’s going on.”
Good wants to change that with his venue.
“I’ll be here 90% of the time… to teach people how to play,” he said. “I want it to be a hangout. I want it to be a place where people can come a couple of nights a week and learn pinball skills.”
The aspiring pinball entrepreneurs spent several months spent researching and scouting potential locations to house 50-100 machines inside but kept striking out. Then, last November, Sol Schott, the owner of ACME Pie Company approached them about leasing the space adjacent to his shop, previously home to Papillon Cycles, which closed earlier that same month.
The leasing price was too high for Freimark and Good so Schott pitched another idea: turning a section of his pie shop into an arcade.
“My whole idea with Acme was it to kind of be like, a community center,” Schott told ARLnow. “When I talked to them about the pinball thing, I was like, ‘Oh, well, that’d be really cool because I already had some pinball machines in there.”
The Pinball Basement initially let people play for free during its soft launch in December but has since transitioned to its fee-based model. The hours are the same as ACME Pie except on Saturdays, when the venue becomes an exclusive space for members from 5-9 p.m.
Since the opening, Schott reports his shop has already seen an increase in foot traffic. He noted the arcade has particularly appealed to younger audiences, including single parents with children who are teaching their kids to play while enjoying a slice of pie.
“Maybe you’ll get the occasional person sitting at the bar and get a piece of pie and a cup of coffee or soda or whatever, but it was a small percentage,” he said. “And there’s more of that now.”
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General Membership Meeting
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8pm (Doors open at 7)
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Come early for full Dinner and Drink Service!