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CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2019


Taking the steps into the unknown and presented with a leap of faith are not only bewildering moments in your life but also quite daunting. Many are quite reserved with their judgment and can be deemed as cautious people, this is a quality that should be treasured, not one seen to hold you back.


Reflecting on what has been our most difficult year in history we think to ourselves about the choices we have made and the fact that throughout the decade of presenting our concept of fair, classic amusements, it has always been followed from the heart and not the head.


It would be naive to think that with our 'stack it high' sell it cheap (sometimes give it away) attitude to our arcades we would be sustainable albeit the most popular in the country. Often we think to ourselves that a low paid minimum wage job would be a better route for us financially than working intensifying hours for our 'pay as you go' lifestyle.


With the struggles of everyday and the future of the high street looking rather bleak we still have the passion and belief that we had all those years ago in Gravesend 2009.


Some of you reading this have been with us on the journey from the beginning and seen the roller coaster ride we have been on, with you guys being part of the vision and dream that we created and still have to this day.


We have had many conversations with people over the years with the plans ahead and what they entailed. From the beginning it was to trial our concept and then open up more inland arcades, each time presenting the same idea of classic machines, but with different content. This is what we did with Gravesend being the first arcade, then Maidstone (a big version of Gravesend), Gravesend 2, Tonbridge (after Gravesend withdrawal) and then Chatham. The seaside arcade was always a wish, but with the 'big boys' and the 'little old us' with our concept it was a very scary prospect to entail (although that didn't close our minds to this).


April time our great friend Barry was on holiday with his wonderful family in Bognor Regis, and spotted a large closed Amusement arcade on the seafront. Immediately my response (before even discussing with Amelia) was to get infomation on it. Shortly after looking at the marketing particulars from the estate agent we decided to go down for a viewing and see what was already around.


Once in the property we encountered a smelly, derelict and very poor condition amusement arcade that would of been nice in its day but was decimated as we saw it. This was a shame because we had high hopes and after seeing the local area thought it ticked all boxes for our idea, fairness and creativity for the seaside adventure (as it was to be dubbed in the trade press).


Amelia and I do not drive, we have carried crazy things by bus, train and buggy (lol) for years and although we need to get a driving licence, even if its between us, there just never seems to be 'time' to squeeze it in between the children and crazy arcade world. So once we had viewed the property and had the very long train ride back to Maidstone we discussed what we had just seen at Waterloo Square. Immediately before the train doors opened for our ride home I was a 'NO' and Amelia was a 'YES'. The disappointment and shock at just how awful the condition of the building inside and out was quite stark and signaled not just a 'massive project' but one of insanity, IF, we was to take it. So, on the way home it was my one desire to ensure Amelia was a 'No' as well, and eventually after a few days we came to the same decision, although we both shared big disappointment.


Normal work resumed, after all Chatham was only 6 weeks old and needed time and nurturing as any new venue requires. It was a strange time really because as exciting and vibrant our new Chatham arcade was (and certainly is today) we couldn't stop thinking just how great a seaside experience under our banner would be for so many people.


Like a drip (no not me) the body and mind started to get more and more 'Bognor Vibes' entering the bloodstream, as ridiculous as the notion may of been. So Amelia and I started talking more and the mindsets had switched, Amelia more so a No, and me heading more to a Yes. Days passed and on a routine visit to repair some machines in the arcades I headed over to Chatham and Jade picked up on me being a little 'consumed'. Pretty good 'mind reading' from Jade, seeing as she had only joined the company and met us recently. However in brief I discussed with her and asked her what her 'gut feeling' was. Her reaction was that it was crazy and a great chance to showcase how WE think it should be at the seaside. Amelia and I spoke some more, I spoke with many people in fact, so did Amelia. So we picked a very grim day and headed down, then got the 'feel' from the building and whether we could pull this HUGE risk and MASSIVE project off.

When we got the keys the hard work began, and although many will find this difficult to believe but we had probably the hardest ordeal ahead, which we could not foresee.


With a team of decorators, a sparks and our vision ahead we got the ball rolling, and aimed for a January finish.


Things began to go terribly wrong, in every possible way. The perfect storm began to unfold and the most unimaginable misery was about to be dealt to ourselves with little or no prospect of overturning the misfortune that we had encountered. As we wrote the Christmas message last year we felt things were getting oddly challenging but what lie ahead was beyond our most extreme nightmares.


January 2019 we began to come under extreme pressure, largely fueled by our random B3 machines losing vast amounts of money in Tonbridge, with a 16k loss recorded in just 10 days (excluding running costs). This proves the nature of how random these games are, and the notion that they can take it back is completely untrue, because its not a certain outcome, it is a random one. With pressure mounting and many people asking for a opening day we needed to establish an opening day with urgency. It wasn't just us having issues, the decorators and Electrician were too having turbulent times, so we had no choice to work overnight, every possible hour that our bodies would allow.


Being away from my family was incredibly hard, using video call as my only communication and having the sense of complete isolation it was enough to break a person, and I will not deny that many trips to the beach to gaze out to sea were needed. There was times of utter despair and certainly at a time like that you see who are your friends.


As January rocked on by Dan (Big Dan) had joined us, and he struggled with the change but eventually we got rolling, but Dan and I being friends for almost 10 years was certainly tested with the 'pressure cooker' of the road ahead. Most days Amelia and the girls were sad, and crying on the phone due to the pressure of me being away and the fact that Bognor had become a 'can of worms' with much more than we entailed. However the money had gone and we continued with the project and didn't cut one corner, not one saving was made, just loans and ramping up of the credit cards was needed. We had to see it through.


February hit and it got harder, and harder, to points of 'testing of the soul' and the strength within. All through the 'process' and I have to call it this because it was like a warped endurance test to a human being, I still believed and never gave up hope. I recall telling our team that there were 'forces against us' of a cruel kind, but the ones who are clearly watching over are going to triumph like we will, we had to believe. For inspiration we started sharing the 'blood, sweat and toil' speech from Winston Churchill's war speeches and thinking how hard it must of been for those in our nation that were facing war, potentially to lose their loved ones to it, this helped 'belittle' our affairs.


As March was fast approaching we had the 2nd March as Bognor's big opening day. I recall speaking with Paul and Carol over at the golf course opposite and Paul joking what a catastrophic disaster it would be if we didn't open on time, oddly as I crossed over the road to return to work I got the feeling we wouldn't make it. Everyone around us said we would easily do it, and as much as I could see it was possible, something inside was telling me we wouldn't make the March 2nd opening. So against my own thoughts we pressed on, racing towards the finishing line.


6.26 am on March 2nd the disaster struck, a stuck relay and on/off for a ring consisting of around 40 machines caused the unthinkable to occur, machines were spiked. Some were easy to sort (just fuses) but many were far more sinister and couldn't be brought back fast enough, don't forget I was also already jaded from being up however how long. I woke everyone up (eventually) and said we need to call the whole thing off, which (apart from Kev who runs Tonbridge Mr P's) was dismissed and all believed in their minds it would open. It clearly could not, and the embarrassment was to cancel or open with a shocking presentation, which was worse, I decided the latter. However it took until we was some 40 minutes away from the opening to get everyone to see it couldn't be done. This was not good, we had a coach load of people from Gravesend, Chatham, Maidstone and any second Tonbridge on their way. This was a tough and horrible call to make, but one that had to be done. Nothing can be taken away from those who were trying to open, I still was too, their positive attitude was fantastic but when the devastation hit us all, collectively, it was quite frankly; awful.


Being a facebook dinosaur meant Dan had to make the post, and although we were immensely disappointed there were many others who were too, and we suffered some sad feedback from some but we would like to thank so many of you who supported us on that fateful day. It must of been very hard to be fighting our corner on a day that we let so many of you down, but we are so truly grateful, and those who were angry we would never hold any bad feeling because, after all, for the first time in our history we let the people down.


Amelia and I stood at the front of the arcade to apologise to every person, and 'front out' the disaster that had occurred. Amelia shed more tears than I have ever seen from anybody, and my face had the sadness and regret written all over my face. Dan and Kev were fantastic too, showing some round the arcade and giving a picture of what had happened.


Around about 5pm that day we went to the pub and Amelia and I had Kev, Jade, Dan and Celia from our team and warned of the damage we will be due to suffer not just in Bognor but as a brand. Amelia, myself and Kev all cried at the bar, hugged each other and as it was all a blur I remember Kev saying 'We stand together, we fall together' and that touched me more than he will ever know, it definitely felt like the end.


In the meantime Justin and Sam had diverted the coach to Maidstone Reel Fruits and although our exact words was 'We don't want a single penny off anybody' we reluctantly allowed Reel Fruits to open after our trip to Hastings for everyone was declined in favour of Reel Fruits Maidstone.


March 2nd was an odd day, and one that if I had an escape button on my body then my desire to press it would of been seriously tested. Things had hit a new low, even farther in the depths of hell that I had already entailed in the months previous.


Things outside the arcade were getting tougher too, not Amelia and I (somehow we stay strong) but we had to make a snap decision to move home and leave Maidstone that we had lived at for some years. Ruby had her school lined up, it was a really big decision to make and one that was high risk whichever way we went. Bognor we headed, to keep our belief and hope that we would still be able to do this.


All that was going through my mind was that we have to get the doors open, we have to see it open, whatever happens after that is left to the hand of fate.


On March 16th we aimed for and successfully opened as a soft opening. We offered a refund for all that booked accommodation on March 2nd and got to work at what we do best; Putting the FUN back into machines.


It has been a very long learning curve and long winding road for tuning the arcade and establishing what we need and what we want in the arcade in-keeping with our 'no tickets' format.


From the beginning we realised that our family side was 'weak' with little for families, and throughout the year we have excelled with increasing this offering and brought MANY new games with unique concepts too. We have by no means finished yet and we have already got 9 more games lined up for end of Feb.


Easter was quick to present itself and this was a surprise of pace and vibrancy, hard to come to terms with due to the 'derelict' arcade still being embedded in our minds, but here she was (the arcade) like a shiny new button, presented to the world. The old machines were running well and bedding into their new home, putting wide gleaming smiles on almost all that walked through the doors.


The arcade began to take shape, and whilst I was used to the long hours, Amelia was looking after the children and working in the arcade, so we both became on the line of burnout quite quickly, but needs must, and the option to rest just simply was not there. Dan was in the same boat as us, working everyday, every hour and this is a tough process for anyone and something that we are not exaggerating or amplifying, its the bare bone truth.

Sadly because the mental and physical stress took its eventual toll of Dan and he decided to leave in May. This was very sad for us, but understandable for anyone and perhaps one could say he made the right decision because it was like a mountain of stress for all at that time.


Amelia and I ran the half term week in May which was our first insight to the power of the holidays and just how mental the arcade could get, this was very encouraging to see that we had got our concept through to so many people, especially with the token aspect rather than the ticket machines that we had decided not to operate. This was the springboard that we needed, not just to cement our continued belief but I guess a much needed tonic for ourselves that we wasn't heading in the wrong direction with presenting our idea and creative concept.


The Summer was crazy and we brought many more bits and pieces in, and although it wasn't until the END of summer our new machines started to come in for the family side we still have seen them make a HUGE impact and they have created a massive fan-base already.


We had the dramas of fake reviews and malicious activity from places that clearly didn't want us in town. Although we would never condone or fall to these levels, we also wouldn't want to be a 'normal arcade' and have a Mr P's Classic Amusements & Reel Fruits turn up. Some keyboard warriors also are clearly bored and although its the same for every person in the 'commercial' world it is very sad.


On the hottest day of the year (definitely not planned) we held our FIRST ever Summer BBQ at Bognor Regis and I stood outside the arcade for 8 hours cooking burgers and sausages for many people, around 400 burgers and sausages were consumed that day! Bizarrely, I didn't go into the arcade whilst it was open, due to Tonbridge putting more financial pressure on us once more, losing tens of thousands between June and what transpired to be July and early August as well. So privately, even then I said to Kev that Amelia will be running the arcade today, I do not want to see it so busy because if it goes then it will be too much to bear seeing all enjoying themselves and it possibly going in a short time. As crazy as this sounds, this was how it was and it became apparent that the struggles had been overcome in many ways, but the hurdles still lay ahead, needing to be tackled and defeated. However the arcade name was finally up and we thank Full Tilt for this, Emil is a true legend and we can say that he put his belief in us by getting it installed with us to settle with him later, which we have done some time ago.


The thought of winter was soon to be a reality and before this hit us we had Ruby starting school, our little helper, which for us was a big thing to lose our family time that often would be at work. With a turbulent year already partially behind us we was concerned that Ruby would struggle with school, and with us all being such a close family it would be hard for her and hard for us. She has been a superstar, and whilst Amelia and I still miss her dearly the hardest thing is the early drop off and pick up in the middle of the day!


We thought and was warned that winter in Bognor was bleak and extremely quiet. Up until November especially we was still quite busy, and reflecting on December we have still kept the momentum of a busy winter, OK with nothing to compare it to, but we certainly feel its has been nice. People make and help the atmosphere and although the arcade already has a great 'feel' to it we always need you guys to make it that extra special!


So many rumours have been thrown about and many 'Spanish inquisitions' of our intentions for next year have been made. This year has been turmoil for us, but it has been a real test of nerve and grit from individuals. Very special mentions must be made to Kev, Jade and Justin who have held their nerve and passion with sticking behind us and staying firm within the arcades and keeping their focus on delivering the best classic amusements in their respective arcades. This year we have lost a long list of people and some sacrifices from us have been very hard to stomach, such as missing Justin & Sam's wedding. We had no choice, we couldn't close Bognor with no notice and whilst it was in its infancy, and this is something that Amelia and I will always be deeply saddened by. Shortly after this we lost Sam, who had been with us a good while and we called here 'safe hands' as she would always be able to work well under any pressure and often would be great under challenging times. Sam made the right decision for her and gives her much more time with Justin. We lost some others along the way, and without mentioning all along the way it was very sad in the latter part of the year to lose Mike to ill health. Mike was a great person to work with and was like us a 'foot soldier' very rarely sitting in the booth, mostly out and about chatting and assisting where was needed and was like a busy bee.


This year has been stark in opening up the passion in people and it has been a bumpy ride for some of our team. The team is the heartbeat of any formation and also the right people you can spot a mile off, if the passion is there then whatever the skill or pitfalls are do not matter because it is passion and belief that triumphs all. Our team members are all very different from each other and this is what makes them so special and great.


During the hard times, and there was many, we would like to publicly thank all those who was there for us and the many calls we may have shared and meetings. We had visitors from afar come to see us and it was really uplifting when we was experiencing so many hard times behind the scenes. I recall saying to myself how I could never understand why or even how a business (and I use that term business loosely with us) could fold or struggle whilst expanding from an already strong backbone, well I can see how and why now.


However you have to be loopy, crazy, insane and stark raving mad not only to be in our team but to be the captain of this ship, and a ship we see it as. In the dark times customers were telling us our machines are too fair and we should reduce our percentages, we refused. In severe times as we felt the curtain was about to fall we were told to reduce our generosity of buying food for all and such, we refused to alter. We are Mr P's Classic Amusements & Reel Fruits, we stand for FUNFAIR, the two words are our ethos. Being on this ship and being the crew on this ship is no easy feat, and for anyone that jumps on-board may find its not as glamorous as it is for you players. However as tough as it got I reminded all those on 'our ship' that the titanic sunk, and as it did the band continued to play, knowing their dreadful fate, we are that band and we will continue to play, but we will not sink, we are here to stay.


So if you are still awake then you have done good, eat another mince pie, but if you are about to finish on the loo or your battery is about to die whilst you are reading this, then don't go just yet.


We have come to realise that our vast fleet of machines that has ballooned from 2000 in Summer to some 2150 and rising as we speak, far too many machines of all kinds need to be seen and presented back into the 'wild'. As I stood next too random classics like 'L of a Day' and 'Big 50' among 'belters' such as 'Grand National' and 'Ten out of Ten' I thought to myself, this is what I am here to do, create a legacy, to present the past to the future, and this is what we will continue to do.

We have 2020 in our sights to settle the ship into calmer waters, give our team a wonderful treat and build more with continued expansion. The growth of the brand is happening because we are clear cut fair, highest percentages in the country, classic and rarest machines possibly on the globe. This is why we need to share this history and amazing collection with you all. I took some personal inspiration from Haynes car museum. I am not interested in cars in the slightest but we went there to collect some amusement machines and witnessed what I can only describe as the most amazing collection of cars you could imagine, all in pristine collection. Mr Hayne may no longer be alive, but the legacy of him and his love lives on, and this is what we need to do.


So when the dust begins to settle it is time to open up another arcade. We will be tight lipped on the location of this, but it isn't a choice of whether we should open another, it is a choice between sell machines or open another venue. We cannot sell our machines, they are part of us, and even Ruby and Scarlett walked around the arcade with us yesterday to wish the machines an Merry Christmas. OK, you already know we are mad so no need to defend that, but we truly love the machines and it is us that is keeping them alive to entertain you all.


By the end of February our next wave of machines that we have been involved in designing and creating will land with us to be installed in Bognor. We will be removing the Manx TT superbikes and Sega Rally for refurbishment or release, but Daytona (aaaaaaaaaaaa) will be brought into the arena with many amazing machines that are designed for kids and you big kids out there. The fruits will not reduce in quantity and these are highly popular with many of you fellow fruit lovers!


We also have something else up our sleeves, and we was going to the EAG exhibition with our new outlook on something very fresh and exciting, but that will have to wait for now. There are many promising and delightful things ahead, this will be quite a fun and enjoyable year thrashing out what we have planned whilst continuing to improve and fine tune our existing four arcades.


We would like to thank each and every one of you for your continued support throughout what has been the most traumatic time for our classic amusement arcade journey. Every single of of you are stars and its really is all about you guys, no illusion, its YOU that make the arcades what they are today.


Recently in Tesco I was asked if I wanted a lottery ticket with my shopping I bought, oddly after my refusal I was questioned 'Why Not?', my reply was because 'I don't want to win'. Life is about Life, money is irrelevant 'life tokens' that we all live by. We all need money, yes, but we need life and love far more. I will not deny that our machines are worth a very pretty penny, but our bank accounts are almost extinct, but who cares, we are living the dream and creating the future for all to enjoy.


Yesterday (Christmas Eve) was good fun with our spread of goodies and festivity's being enjoyed by many and the 'feel good factor' Christmas spirit shining through. We do this in all the arcades, and in true tradition we overbuy (deliberately) to ensure we have a good mix of goodies to give the homeless people that are dotted around in the towns of the arcades. We are pleased to see that many other people in Bognor have done similar things for homeless people too this year.


We must always be grateful for what we have and not pine for what we do not have. There are many people out there today that have no home and many that are in a hospital ward, possibly fighting for their lives. As humans we must be better and learn to be kinder to others as often as we can. With this we should also extend this kindness and care to also thinking about wildlife that has to put up with us. So for next year, maybe see if you can make a difference with just one thing that can cut waste, cut pollution or something that you feel can help. We have seen the devastating damage climate change can cause and whether you think its down to us guys or a natural thing is irrelevant, because by cutting out plastic waste you will do no harm, and it can only help.


Today, like many of you we will over indulge and enjoy our family time, and this is why we decided to ensure that Bognor follows suit with our Kent arcades being closed Christmas Day (that is law anyway), Boxing Day and New Years Day. We believe Christmas time, whether you believe in the story or not is a family time and a time for reflection as people. It is also a time that can be hard on the heart when the empty spaces loved ones who are no longer here can leave behind. So where ever you are, whatever your doing and whom (did I just say that?!) we wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


We hope that you all have had a lovely morning so far and continue to enjoy the rest of your Christmas.


All our Best wishes and love,


Mr P, Mrs P, Ruby P and Scarlett P xxxx

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