Another sunny day brought good traffic with seemingly motivated buyers to Gibsonton, FL for the annual IISA trade show. Len Soled of Rides 4 U had his SBF Groovy Bus on display and it was generating a lot of interest. He was also featuring the Frog Hopper, made by S&S. S&S is returning to the carnival business after a few years, hiatus. Len, commenting on the show said "so far so good". He said each day had gotten progressively better and he was hoping for a great finish Friday and Saturday. We will have a full recap of purchases in our wrap-up article at the close of the show.
Robert Briggs of Modern Midways stopped by the MCW booth to say hello and tell us about his carnival operating at churches in Florida. Briggs recently purchased two automated ticket machines for use on his midway. He put the machines in back but said they held their own against the staffed boxes up front.
Briggs carries about 40 rides and breaks into two units during the season. Originally from the Chicago area, Briggs still plays in the area but now ventures into GA, AL, greater Illinois and Florida. They work year-round with one month off in December.
Southwark Amusements - American Pickers Stars
The trade show actually had two celebrities on hand in John and Gary Southwark of Southwark Amusements. Gary owned a show of the same name with 8-10 rides. He started with an arcade in the 70,s then picked up a paratrooper, a Round Up and, before he knew it, a small show. Southwark left the road when insurance prices became too high.
Gary's brother John is a tool maker and helped fix his brother,s rides. John has also collected old pinball machines and arcade games since the late 70,s
Gary also has a collection of arcade machines, memorabilia and other collectibles. In fact, they have over 11 semi-trailers full of items they keep in Minnesota. Their inventory also occupies pole barns and their basements. When someone has a warehouse full of items to get rid of in bulk, they call John and Gary. Gary picked up the remains of the William T. Collins Show, including the front gate, when they were emptying their winterquarters.
Gary and John are well known by collectors. They sell some things and keep others and those in the business know they are the go-to guys for arcade and amusement collectibles.
When watching American Pickers one night, he saw Mike and Fred try to buy an old Tilt car but the deal was rejected. Having several of his own, Gary tried to reach the show by email. The Southwarks used to go to trade shows and had fabricated seats they used out of old ride cars like from Tilts and Ferris Wheels. Others wanted to purchase the items and Gary sent them to John for the sale.
One day they heard that American Pickers was going to be shooting in the area and they attempted contact again. This time they received an email in return asking for a description of the items and an inventory list. Gary took plenty of pictures and sent them along. The next email from the show was to setup a day and time for them to stop by and shoot. On the appointed day, Fred and Mike came to the winterquarters. When the hosts drive up they don,t have advance notice of what is available. They spent over ten hours digging through the items in the Southwark,s collection, finally picking out two spaceship cars from a ride that looked like a Chair-O-Plane. They asked $350 per car. When the hosts said hit me with a price for two, John punched him in the arm and said "$800". They finally settled on $300 per car.
The show then moved on the John,s basement with the coin-operated arcade games. They made an offer on the "Naughty Peek" and "Strip Poker" games from the 1940s. They were sold for $300 each. They also sold a strength tester for $300.
At the end of the show they called in an appraiser who turned out to be "Marvelous Marvin" a friend and fellow collector from Ohio. Marvin said the hosts got a good deal on the items.
The show, which was available on line, was called "No Cheap Thrills" and the brothers were called the "Kings of Coin-Op".
Not resting on their fame, the brothers have recently entered the kiddie ride market with an old school tugboat ride they are selling at the show for $38,000. The ride can rack in the back of a pickup and takes two men about a half hour to set up.
If the ride catches on, the brothers have plans to build custom tubs for the ride, giving customers plenty of variety.
Click here to watch "American Pickers" featuring Southwark Amusements on the History Channel's web site.
Denny's Electronics - LED Systems
With all the talk about imports from China and the lack of American manufacturing, one sign of American resiliency can be seen right here in our own backyard at Denny's Electronics. Dennis Bartosik not only sells US made LED lights, he actually builds them in his own shop in Florida.
Denny's can produce 3,000 bulbs a day. Using a highly automated process, he is able to use his staff to produce a high quality product. His light packages can be sold as a stand alone and installed by the customer or they can be installed on the ride by Denny's staff.
Bartosik recently completed a project putting LEDs on Strates Shows, Giant Wheel. The result is spectacular. The draw from the lights before the LEDs were installed was 540 amps and after the installation, it was 30 amps! The savings is usually in the 90% range.
Bartosik was quick to point out that all LEDs are not alike. Different bulbs have different viewing angles and Bartosik said he expects 120 degree viewing. The lenses are also a factor as they can make the lights look bigger.
Ironically, Denny's Electronics has been in the LED business for 15 years. About 13 years ago, he produced 20 games with LED lights. One such game, owned by Joey Fowler, can be seen at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. The lights are still in working condition.
One huge additional benefit of the LED lights is that they need very little maintenance. The lens and caps do not need to be replaced and they are almost indestructible. The lights also rarely malfunction. If a light does happen to go out, it is extremely easy to plug in a new set, bulb or pod.
Denny's bulbs produce 256 colors, much more than most other bulbs that offer only 7 colors. He claims to be the only bulb on the market with such capabilities
Another Key to Denny's success is they do all maintenance, programming and sales in house. He still spends some time refurbishing his previously made games and equipment but the bulk of his time is now dedicated to providing the best in LED lights.
"I know my niche and I enjoy working with these lights", Bartosik said.