Pinball Pete’s, a staple arcade in Ann Arbor and East Lansing for over 40 years, announced on Friday they are seeking community donations in order to stay open. Having fallen on hard times this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on in-person activities, the arcade started a GoFundMe in an effort to raise the necessary funds.
As of Sunday, Pinball Pete’s has received over $50,000 through their GoFundMe, with a total goal of $125,000. Donations will contribute directly to paying for rent and utilities at both locations.
The arcade is giving away limited edition t-shirts in exchange for donations of various sizes ranging from $75 to $200. Donors who contribute $500 or more will have the opportunity to engrave their name on an arcade wall and meet the owner.
Last week, rumors that Pinball Pete’s was closing spread rapidly on social media after a now-deleted Reddit post claimed the business had shut down. On Thursday, Pinball Pete’s announced in a Facebook post that they were reopening Saturday.
Nick Reynolds, Pinball Pete’s social media manager and the son of owner Mike Reynolds, explained the arcade was classified as a non-essential business, meaning it had to completely close for much of the year. Reynolds said the fundraiser would help keep Pinball Pete’s in business for an additional year with limited operations.
“We’ve kept the business alive since then, but at this point in time with eight to 12 months of absolutely no foot traffic in the stores, we’re at the point where we don’t really have any other option than to create a fundraiser to try to offset the costs,” Reynolds said. “During that period of time that we were required to be closed, we still did have to pay for rent and utilities and taxes and everything.”
Pinball Pete’s is currently open under modified hours, which are announced through Facebook. They cap the number of customers allowed inside in order to maintain social distancing and require masks and temperature checks for all customers.
Reynolds said Saturday was the first day in a long time Pinball Pete’s was able to open. According to Reynolds, they are planning on starting with weekend hours and expanding once they are able.
“We’re essentially just trying to work our way back up to maintainable hours, we’re trying to start with the weekends where more people might be able to make it out into the stores,” Reynolds said. “At the moment we don’t have the capital or all the employees that we would need to be open for five to six days a week.”
For many Ann Arbor residents and students, Pinball Pete’s has been an important part of their community and college experience. The arcade attracts loyal customers, many of whom fear that the business’ financial struggles could lead to its closure.
LSA senior Jasmine Li said it is sad to see how many local businesses have had to shut their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s kind of unfortunate to see so many businesses close where you’ve formed memories of your friends from college,” Li said. “I don’t think there’s any (other) arcade really around Ann Arbor — it just seems like an important part of campus.”
Engineering senior Charles Chan said he would frequently take friends and family to Pinball Pete’s when they visited Ann Arbor. Chan said the Reddit post made him fearful that the business, which had been a central part of his college experience, would not survive the pandemic.
“As someone who is (by) no means from a high-income family, I think Pinball Pete’s is an awesome, unique local arcade, and I was genuinely disappointed about the rumors about it closing,” Chan said. “It’s been so much entertainment for all of my friends the past four years.”
Reynolds said his family is touched by the outpouring of support on the GoFundMe, which has received over 1,000 individual donations. Many donors have shared personal stories of their experiences at the arcade.
“It’s pretty unreal,” Reynolds said. “We had no idea if there would be that much support, if anyone would really pay it any mind. We know everyone is having their own financial struggles right now, and we’re part of that group of people.”
Reynolds said he thinks that, with sustained community support, there is a good chance the arcade can make it through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Seeing the familiar faces, people that are regular customers coming back in to support us along with the crazy amount of support that the fundraiser has generated over the last two or three days, I am very hopeful for the next year, and I hope that the business can return to normal,” Reynolds said.
Daily News Editor Hannah Mackay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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