Written by Marla Hardee Milling | Photos by Anthony Harden
It may sound like just another retro craze, but people are taking vintage pinball and arcade games seriously and turning them into successful businesses.
T.C. DiBella spotted a Black Hole pinball machine—his all time favorite— for sale on Craigslist a few years ago and knew he had to have it. He successfully convinced his wife, Brandy, to let him buy it as a birthday present for himself. That purchase quickly led to two more pinball machine acquisitions, and that spiraled into an idea for a brand
DiBella was teaching middle school at the time and his wife was working at Asheville Pizza & Brewing, which offers a popular game room at its Merrimon Avenue location. He told owner Mike Rangel his idea of opening a pinball museum, operating on a flat fee model for people to come in and play pinball and arcade games.
“I told him it sounded like a great idea, but I didn’t think it would ever be a business,” says Rangel. “I said, ‘My advice is don’t do it.’ I’m so glad he didn’t listen to me.”
Not only has Asheville Pinball Museum thrived with multitudes of repeat players routinely driving in from Knoxville, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greenville, South Carolina, as well as those in the Western North Carolina area, the game room at Asheville Pizza & Brewing has also evolved to contain more arcade games. Plus, Asheville Retrocade celebrated its grand opening in January. It’s located beside Odd’s Café on Haywood Road in West Asheville in the space formerly occupied by Pour Taproom. Then there are places like Asheville’s Fun Depot, bowling alleys, and other select venues in the region that offer a smattering of arcade games.
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