Pinball Pete’s asks for help keeping the lights on amid pandemic

Beloved arcades in Ann Arbor, East Lansing use GoFundMe fundraiser to stay afloat

Players at the Ann Arbor Pinball Pete's on Dec. 26, 2020. (Pinball Pete's)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Whether it’s a first date, birthday party or family game night, everyone has a story about Pinball Pete’s.

With locations in Ann Arbor and East Lansing, the 40-year-old arcade business is one thing that actually unites Wolverines and Spartans, but limited capacity and periodic closures over the past eight months have pushed the business to a place where it needs help staying afloat.

So Pinball Pete’s has started a GoFundMe campaign and is asking its legions of loyal fans for help.

“The response that we’ve received initially has been outstanding,” said Nick Reynolds, son of Pinball Pete’s owner Mike Reynolds. “It really is overwhelming to see as a person that’s in a tough spot right now. Our family business is kind of backed into a corner at the moment, and we didn’t really have any other option than to put this [the fundraiser] up.”

Launched on Christmas Day with a goal of $125,000, the campaign raised over $50,000 in its first three days. As of Monday evening, more than 1,300 different donors had given over $61,000; almost half of the business’s goal.

Money donated to the campaign will be put towards paying rent and utilities, according to the GoFundMe page.

We hope everyone is having a great Sunday night! We wanted to give an update on the fundraiser we started just a few...

Posted by Pinball Pete's on Sunday, December 27, 2020

The decision to launch the campaign wasn’t taken lightly, according to Reynolds. He said his father and his business partners hesitated to start the campaign because they know that community members are struggling as well, but the arcades needed help.

In return for donations, Pinball Pete’s is offering thank you gifts to donors in different tiers.

Those who donate between $1-$50 will be mentioned in a thank you post on the Pinball Pete’s Facebook pages. While supplies last, donors giving $75 can receive a Pinball Pete’s T-shirt. Limited-edition tie-dye shirts will be given to donors who give $125, while $200-donors will receive a limited edition “I saved Pinball Pete’s” shirt created for the fundraiser, according to the GoFundMe page. People who donate $500 will be able to have a meet-and-greet with the owners and their names will be put on the “High Scores” section of a wall.

Find the GoFundMe here.

READ: Pinball Pete’s in Ann Arbor to reopen Saturday

Having been raised in and around the arcades his whole life, Reynolds, who helps manage Pinball Pete’s social media pages, said he is always told stories about the arcades whenever he shares his relation to the business. He knew community members would fight to keep the arcades around if they knew the situation it was in, especially during a time when everyone is looking for a little escape -- something Pinball Pete’s offers through its games.

Along with their donations, donors to the GoFundMe are also sharing their stories detailing their memories of the arcades, like the ones Reynolds has been told.

“We love seeing all of the stories and the responses to the actual fundraiser and asking for help,” Reynolds said. ”It’s great to receive the support the business needs, but it’s also great to receive the emotional support that everyone is giving us.”

“Hearing those stories, the stories of the first dates, the wedding proposals, the birthday parties, all of the memories and relationships that have been created in the family business over those decades is the important part to us,“ he said, adding a huge thank you to everyone who has supported the arcades.

Pinball Pete’s in Ann Arbor will be open this week from Friday to Sunday, Jan. 1-3, 2021, according to Reynolds.

Players must wear a mask and hand sanitizer stations are posted throughout the store. The arcade machines are sanitized as they are used, according to the Pinball Pete’s Facebook page.

Currently, the business is trying to plan more regular hours, now that it can be open more consistently, and is looking to hire staff.

Pinball Pete’s is at 1214 S. University Ave in Ann Arbor and 220 Albert St. in East Lansing, Michigan.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.