LOS ANGELES — Stepping into the office of Family Amusement Corporation is a bit like going back in time.
Robert Peck, who runs the family business with his cousin Stephen, shows off decades-old pinball machines that his father and uncle collected over the years. He dusts off one machine and tries playing it.
“It was a pin and a ball, so you would drop that down, the ball would come here, and you would literally just...and wherever it landed, oh, no way!” exclaimed Peck as the ball made its way into the hole in the pinball machine. “What? I’m playing the lottery today!”
Luck mixed with nostalgia is why the business has stuck around in East Hollywood since 1971. It was originally founded by his dad and uncle, who rented and sold arcade games. They also opened Family Arcade next door, where Peck spent a lot of time as a kid.
“The employees at the time, who a lot of them who are still here, would take me around on the dolly, and we would go around collecting the tokens and the quarters,” he said.
But when the pandemic hit, many of those employees were furloughed, and Peck wasn’t sure whether the business would survive. The arcade had only been open for two months because it was closed most of 2019 due to a fire that burned it down. It’s been a tough two years.
“It was just hard, hard on my dad and my uncle because it is like watching their baby be sick or something, you know,” Peck said.
But this month, they opened their doors with reduced capacity, rigorous cleaning measures, and no more tokens. Instead, customers pay a $25 fee to play all day inside the arcade.
Reopening is a big deal for customers like Jamie Aguilar. He grew up nearby and has been coming here for 13 years.
“This is one of the few places where I can meet up with friends, go and play some video games instead of online and interact with them,” Aguilar said.
With much of that taken away last year, Aguilar said he spent hours on opening day playing his favorites, including a car racing game and a dance game.
There’s a steady stream of customers here, but the popularity of video and mobile games could threaten the survival of traditional arcades. But Peck believes there is still a nostalgia for them. He sees it in constant arcade sales and rentals to businesses and film and television productions. Peck also said longtime customers now bring their children to the arcade.
“We’re seeing this resurgence of classic games. I mean, we’re getting calls every day, people are like, do you have a PAC-MAN for sale? Does the arcade have this in it?” Peck said. “It seems that almost everything is going back to what the ’80s were.”