He had second, third and fourth-place finishes in other categories, which includes his other businesses, Brisketology, Champion Mill Arcade and All8Up Pizza & Hoagies.
“I don’t know if it’s deserved,” he said. “We have a lot of fans and followers and stuff, which is good, but there have been so many businesses in Butler County for so long that work hard, that are good, great businesses. It’s a huge honor, and if people really feel that way, it’s pretty amazing because I voted, but I didn’t vote for myself once for anything. I voted for other friends, other friends’ businesses, and places I like to go.”
Baker said he didn’t pay to advertise his nominations in Best of Butler County because he wanted to know if people were voting for his businesses and not because of advertising.
“It’s an honor for it to happen organically,” he said, adding it was also a shock for some categories, like for Best Bar when the place has only been around for three years.
But it’s not really surprising as Baker’s presence has only grown since he was named the 2021 Hamilton Citizen of the Year. In the past several months, he opened Champion Mill Arcade inside Spooky Nook Sports and purchased All8Up Pizza & Hoagie from Tony and Kathy Brown. He’s invested in Hamilton, especially on North Third Street, because he loves his corner of the city. But it was not intentionally, he admitted.
“We didn’t come to Hamilton with that desire,” he said of creating a restaurant and entertainment destination. “We didn’t know what Hamilton was all about, to be honest. I grew up in this area, my grandma used to bring me to Elder-Beerman’s when I was a kid, and even though I lived in Butler County forever. We moved here because we needed a bigger space for my factory. We brought VPcabs here, and that spot was really great for it.”
VPcabs is what Baker was first known for. It was his virtual pinball technology that he showcased on Shark Tank (and he earned a deal), and he needed a warehouse and 113 N. Third St. was an ideal place he found on Craigslist. Then after a visit from Hamilton officials, he invested into the building, which became Pinball Garage, a combination bar and arcade. Then he added his Brisketology to offer food a few days a week. And then in January, after a casual conversation with former All8Up owner Tony Brown, a deal was made to buy the pizza place.
“I’m not a smart enough guy to have this master plan just a couple of years ago,” he said. “Maybe you can call me an opportunist. I try to find opportunities that seem like it may be good. But in business, you’ll have 1,000 opportunities, and only a couple sometimes sticks.”
Baker has become one of the chief cheerleaders for Hamilton’s businesses, which he all but said in his Hamilton Citizen of the Year speech in January 2022. He said a community should support others, whether it’s a neighborhood or a business community, and that’s a lesson he learned from his parents.
“My mom and dad raised us all that way,” Baker said about supporting the community. “It was always about serving people, and if you can serve your community and make the community better, then everybody gets better, especially a community that you live in or that you work in. We’ve been lucky to have a platform to be able to help.”
The future for Baker is now with his current businesses, which also includes the Champion Mill Arcade that opened earlier this year inside Spooky Nook Sports on North B Street. But any future business investments will only likely be if they are an opportunity that not only makes business sense but makes community sense.
Best of Butler County 2023 winners
BEST OF BUTLER COUNTY 2023
Brad Baker’s name or his business, Pinball Garage, could be found finishing in the top four places in several 2023 Best of Butler County categories, including taking first place in Best Community Supporter, Best Bar/Lounge, Best Arcade/Gaming, and Best Family Fun Destination.
Pinball Garage finished second in the Best Attraction and Best BBQ, and his Champion Mill Arcade at Spooky Nook Sports also took second in the Best Arcade/Gaming category as did his food truck, Brisketology, in the Best Food Truck and Best Wings categories.
He rounded out the 2023 Best of Butler County competition with Pinball earning third-place honors in the Best Neighborhood Bar, and Baker himself earning fourth-place honors as Best Local Celebrity.
In January, he purchased All8Up from Tony and Kathy Brown, which had high finishes in the Best of Butler County competition, earning second-place honors with Best Diner and Best Hidden Gem Restaurant.