‘Old school’ pinball bar and arcade eyeing spring opening in downtown Hamilton

A Butler County business that creates virtual pinball machines is working to renovate a downtown Hamilton storefront into a place filled with games, food and drinks.

Pinball Garage, 113 North 3rd St., will feature 32 pinball machines, some brand new and some dating back to the 1970s, and eight to 10 arcade games.

Owner Brad Baker said he wants the place to be an “old school,” retro pinball bar/arcade concept with a varied selection from previous decades until today. He hopes to open the business by April.

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Pinball Garage won’t initially be making food on its premises.

“We’ll be partnering with a couple local places, but I can’t elaborate on that yet,” he said. “We applied for a D-5 liquor license, which is a full bar.”

The storefront will serve as the new home of VPcabs Virtual Pinball, a business Baker launched in 2013 to build virtual, WiFi-ready pinball machines that can download thousands of games.

That gives home gamers the opportunity to play “just about any pinball game ever made” on one machine, he said.

The Fairfield-based business manufactures four different machines, none of them coin-operated, with the vast majority purchased not by businesses but by individuals for home use. It typically sells between 300 to 500 machines each year, he said.

Baker was on Season 7 of “Shark Tank” and made a deal with businessman and investor Daymond John. Since then VPcabs’ business has “grown quite a bit” and needs more room.

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The extra space in the new Hamilton location means double the amount of manufacturing space for the pinball company’s employees, which should help it expand its manufacturing into other video game-related areas, Baker said.

The business was first announced in June 2018 to open later that year. So what took Baker so long to get to this point?

“VPcabs landed a monster job to make machines as promotional items for Snap-on tools,” Baker said. “It took the whole building and a long time to do it. It was a good problem for me.”

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The business hired 15 new people to carry out the new machines, which shipped out in December, he said.

“We also built a machine for the TV show ‘Impractical Jokers’ and they ran over it with a monster truck on TV,” Baker said and laughed. “It was (co-host) Sal Vulcano’s personal machine. He was so sad.”

The Pinball Garage name pays tribute to the storefront’s history, as immediate predecessor Jim’s Auto Service Store moved out in 2018.

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