GIRARD, Ohio (WKBN) – One of the biggest buildings in downtown Girard will soon be occupied by — of all things — an arcade. Mayor Jim Melfi asks, how can you not be excited about a private investment of this kind coming to the city?
There will be rows and rows of pinball machines inside Rob Berk’s new business called Past Times.
Berk, who also owns Warren’s Berk Enterprises, has been collecting pinball machines for 50 years. Three hundred and fifty of them are now part of Girard’s new arcade.
“I’m getting older and older and yet I don’t have anywhere to play these games and appreciate these games. So I figured the time was right to buy a place or build a place where I could put all the games in and enjoy my passion,” Berk said.
What Berk bought was the former IGA grocery store in downtown Girard. He still has the Santisi’s sign that hung outside. The inside, though, is now filled with arcade games — the vast majority being pinball machines, including the world’s largest pinball machine.
Along with Atari’s Hercules, there are also antiques like one without flippers from the 1930s and the first one with flippers, the Humpty Dumpty, from 1947. There’s Cow Poke, the Cleveland Browns and one of the rock band Guns N’ Roses.
“I love this. I work in an arcade,” said Mike Hale, Past Times’ project manager.
Hale is tasked with getting all of the games running.
After 15 years in education, Hale quit and now makes the hour drive every day from the Meadville, Pennsylvania, area.
The pinball bug hit Hale when he bought his father a machine.
“Then I fell in love with them. I thought just the artwork, the sounds, the nostalgia. Then Rob found out I worked on them and we’ve been working together for about three years,” Hale said.
Once opened, Past Times will be operated on a pay-one-price basis and play all day.
“They’re so much fun and they tell the story and there’s a lot of history behind them, and everyone enjoys playing pinball,” Berk said.
What they don’t know yet is exactly when they’re going to open. They want to make sure all the machines are running and everything is in place before they open the doors.