Christmas Message 2021
Marking twelve years since the birth of the Mr Ps Classic Amusements brand this year was a real achievement and something we should of celebrated. Hard to be ‘buzzed up’ and joyful when one of your most precious places - our Maidstone arcade Reel Fruits - has remained closed for what will be two years in March 2022.
Behind every well oiled machine is the things that nobody never see, the real hard gritty graft. I often recall the scene of the film Titanic where the steam powered vessel is powered by workers in unimaginable conditions. This scene is often the frantic ‘hell on earth’ for almost every business out there - that we never see as a customer. For us in the classic arcades it has been quite frankly ‘nuts’. We have been full throttle to keep things moving, not just to maintain being the best but to ensure that we deliver on what we promise and stand for.
Many of you would of seen crazy machine hauls and our ‘operation stack’ that is a large bulk of machines in our Bognor arcade that have to be pulled in and out every morning and night and be workshopped individually to be sold through our Reel Fruits brand.
When I look back to the years of playing fruits when I was young I have very fond memories and for this I am happy to have lived through such a wonderful time. Naturally I don’t wish to be a middle-aged man now, but what great memories I have of how the arcades used to be.
For the many years Amelia and I have worked hard creating these arcades we have always been about the player and not the money. During the lockdowns we realised that we could have a nice life, with freedom of time off and earn money for possibly the first time in our history by not being with arcades. However we had to come back for you guys and that’s what we have done and will continue to do.
The recent Christmas party was lovely and the great bunch of people that we had with a wicked turnout made the day a really good send off to a ‘half year trading’. What was nice that we managed for the FIRST time ever to get all that had stayed the day a game in the ‘Strike it Lucky’ game and by the end the ones who’s number had not come up we just got them all up at once! It was lovely to see the faces of you all when we gave you the gift to take home, you are all deserving of it and we are so grateful for your support.
We promised you all that we would make an announcement regarding Maidstone Reel Fruits. Anyone that knows us will be sure in the knowledge that we are people of our word. The big problem with Maidstone is that everything went wrong with the carpet. So all that time ago in lockdown 1 we ordered the carpet from America. Production was mega delayed and the carpet was not produced until around Feb 21. Assurances were made that the carpet world be with us around March. This was all fine, everything was cleared out and we was ready to rock and roll with getting the carpet laid. Maidstone is a 150 machine arcade so all the games were taken out and put into Tonbridge, Chatham and Bognor Regis. The carpet didn’t arrive in time, I now believe it was something to do with that vessel stuck in the canal that time, so in August (I think) the carpet eventually turned up after heading to Amsterdam!! This of course meant that Maidstone filled up, to the max, plus in addition another 4 shipping containers.
To be able to bring back Maidstone now would mean that around 200 machines would need to be removed and then the place completely emptied to allow for the new carpet - which IS there waiting, to be fitted. An absolute nightmare before Christmas one would say and something that causes a massive issue.
Amelia and I discussed what we could or would be willing to release, what could we part with and perhaps what machines should we just call ‘time’ on. The machines that Amelia and I were willing to get rid of on the Classic nature could be written on the back of a beer mat. So not many machines to go means a huge problem - or perhaps it was time to just give up on the notion of Maidstone coming back.. not on your nelly would that be happening. We love Maidstone Reel Fruits, but love the people we have not seen for TOO LONG much more, so it has to be back, and it will.
Maidstone Reel Fruits will be a Over 18s only but will NOT have any £500 jackpots in it. Many years ago before the days of £500’s the ‘hi roller’ machines would often be Electrocoin machines like Bar X 7 or Bar X. We will have scope to develop the arcade somewhat with jackpots upto the category C level which is currently £1 stake £100 Jackpot. This will enable us to use many of our great club machines but throw everything from tokens to £10, £15, £25 and other jackpots into the mix. We will even throw some old magic games in there running the early software. The £5 jackpot that was the staple of Maidstone will still be supported with a great mix for all tastes.
We have so much work to do and our body’s often ache and if you saw us in the morning buckled in pain you would perhaps feel some sorrow for the workload of anyone that works in Bognor Regis. This year we have trialed a couple of brothers who both are fantastic people but even though their passion was shining like a star the job is harsh!! Mr Maidstone I think I killed him off that night we did a relative late one, which is a HUGE opportunity missed for him, and one I feel he will forever regret, but the job is the best, but if you don’t let it in then it won’t bode well with you.
Staff for Maidstone is still something we need to sort. We will get there but we have to get the right candidate from the off, we need someone fresh, vibrant and ready to ooze into the job and be consumed by it. Get the job and the arcade into your lungs and take it all in. This is what Amelia and I have done and that is what the best people that work with us do. Kev is connected to us by being a family member, otherwise would he too have run a mile, perhaps, but I would bet that he wouldn’t of scarpered at all. Kev has given so much into our company and more importantly so much more to you guys and that is worth more than anything. He has been working across all sites and is even moving his whole family for the arcades, now you don’t get that often. We don’t take anything for granted and we would like to thank you sincerely Kev for what you do and how much passion and dedication you give to the cause. You may be as slow as a tortoise but a tortoise being so slow preserved it’s life, so if this is the case for you then it’s a great thing!
This year as disastrous as it may of been opening up in May 17th we have pushed so so hard. The year has been fast paced and one that has been epic. What has iced and put the cherry on the top of our year has been the consistency and fantastic addition to our Bognor Team in Oliver. When Oli came into the arcade to ask about the job we just knew then he was the one for the arcade, not sure what it was, perhaps his politeness and old soul that being in his early 20s is very rare to find. After meeting his wonderful parents we can see where he gets his core values and real work ethic from. Thrown into the deep end with us in the Summer Oli got the sharp shock of what our Bognor Regis arcade is like! When we say it’s mental, it really is. Oli is everything we wanted in a new member of the team and much much more. All that have met him thinks the same as us, so Oliver Rosier this is your moment and this is (as I would say) YOUR name in lights. Thank you for all that you have done for everyone that has visited the arcade and for us, you should be so so proud of yourself, we are honoured to have you in our team.
So it can be done, great people are out there that can work with us, and although we have not had the pleasure of working with her our new team member in Tonbridge, Tracey has brought so much to the arcade already. Although new to us I would like to thank Tracey for joining us lunatics and we promise that you will enjoy the ride, buckle in because the ride is finally beginning to get interesting too..
Jade continues to ride it out at Chatham and aside from Kev is our longest serving team member! Jade what have we done to you! She is still the mad crazy Jade that we took on all that time ago, and we thank her for her loyalty and commitment and zest. We look forward to continuing the journey and development of Chatham with her as an integral part of the future plans.
So we tease about red button here and there and like you all know we do as we say and deliver what we promise. So last year we wrote the following:
Part one is a return of an old flame
Part two is a new venture
Part three is a new adventure
Part four involves Bognor
Ok so ever cryptic aren’t we, well not really because it’s there in black and white and ONE YEAR AGO we told you what we was going to do, and we are do what we say.
Part One is a return of an old flame. Often people have a rekindle with an old love, and often this is seen as ‘an old flame’ well Maidstone Reel Fruits is our old flame that we will always hold a torch for and indeed this arcade will return on May 28th 2022 which is a Saturday, doors will open 10am until LATE.
Some of you may wonder why this is a date that is distant, there are a number of reasons and I will touch on them briefly but also you will see why very soon. Reasons include the following (in no order):
Very special machines to refurb and launch there
Carpet to be laid
New lease to be assigned (in advance stages now)
New team to be assembled and trained
Refurbs of many existing machines
Logistics of new games from units
Refurbish the outside in spring PRIOR to opening
Also we don’t want to ignore possible lockdowns and failed openings, we must get this on time, right and delivered when we say it will be, so setting in stone is May 28th 10am, the FUN awaits you all.
I have always been fond of the term ‘Yin and Yang’ and life is full of this I believe. There are very powerful things that drive you as a person and our belief in what we do is our passion for our arcades and the people that visit them.
I have warned of there being a twist in the tale and there is one that is going to be a hard task for us to swallow.
Throughout the time of this classic adventure it is rare to get time to reflect and when we do it’s often when we are on our knees repairing something, perhaps cleaning pins on power supply connectors or just emptying two pences. Whatever the task we think about things and sometimes it can be good to press the pause button on the crazy shenanigans of the madness that surrounds us.
On a personal level at this time of year I often think about the ones that live only in our hearts and who’s presence we pine for just a moment of. This is a time of love, caring and being with each other and when someone can’t be with us it really pulls at the heart strings and can make us all hit that pause button.
Many people this year, like last and the ones before it will be missing that piece of the jigsaw that completed them, and wish they could have the same conversation that they have probably had with that person a thousand times over. What we all need to do is grab that moment and seize that second that we have hit that pause button and enjoy their memory and continue to enjoy our day, in celebration of their memory not in mourning.
What we must open our eyes to is what and who we have around us and enjoy them, then there are no pieces of our hearts or jigsaws missing, they never were, because through us as people nobody ever really passes, we just know their not physically here, but mentally they will always be with us.
The roller coaster ride has started and the carts have made their climb, the ride of your life has been promised and you best buckle in because now we have pressed that button we need you to all scream if you want to go faster..
Part Five is a step to the right
Part six is a time for Jellied Eels
Part Seven is the final countdown
We have always been on the path to strive for five and as the old film short circuit robot said ‘Johnny 5 alive’ and we are not talking about the famous five here.
Many of you that read the waffles and the Christmas messages probably require a stiff drink after reading them, because there is so so much written between the lines and in a cryptic way that the answers are all plain to see, you just need to look for them.
When we get to announce incredible news such as Maidstone reopening we feel so happy that the old flame will be back. We have missed her so much and there is already work underway to ensure that when Maidstone IS back you can even enjoy a Mr Ps Classic Amusements and Reel Fruits app that will allow you to have a ‘token bank account’ (with a very special name btw) that will enable you to save or spend across any Reel Fruits sites.
So this roller coaster is swirling around and now there is a twist..
Ok, so with an announcement such as Maidstone we have found ourselves in a massive dilemma with regards to our flagship Bognor Regis Mr Ps Classic Amusements and Reel Fruits arcade.
The summer of 2021 was a little bit of a shocker for us, in what we learnt. It goes back to ‘Yin and Yang’ in many ways, with the sheer might of the arcade but also the misalignment on some aspects..
So in the height of summer and throughout the year we have seen incredible rise in the popularity of our ‘banishing of tickets’ and our token system, so astonishing that it made it very busy and cramped in the family area of the arcade. Being so busy we noticed more and more confusion - mostly thanks to BACTA muddying the waters for protection of highly addictive lucrative ticket machines - of fruit machines being over 18 only on the family floor. It was so stark that some families even thought we were acting illegally for having them in the family section at all! On the flip side some were extremely frustrated with the almost inevitable reduction of them being on the arcade floor, and when I explained to old and very young that the trade association were pushing to remove the 2p Bally’s and other games of low stake it even caused tears with some!
This is a headache that has given not just us, but a wealth of other operators across the U.K. a real hard decision. Also it’s down to ethics too, should arcades really pull out machines with a guaranteed minimum percentage payout of 70% (obviously we are miles higher than this) that give a return to the player with a max stake of 10p? Should they then replace them with £1 play games dishing out tickets with percentages of around 30% but then the ‘winners’ get robbed at the ticket shop with upto 1000% mark up by the vendor? Personally I think it stinks, so much so that it shows the true political motivation and ‘influential’ members or our so called trade association. It’s funny how when the stake of 10p and prize of £5 was of value , it was ok, some 27 years ago, but now it’s really just entertainment for ALL ages because it’s almost valueless in monetary terms. Bacta have declared that it’s time to make a scapegoat of the fruit machine and glorify the ticket machine. The ticket machine looks attractive but it’s an illusion to hide the real wolf in sheep’s clothing (also tax free by the way) - think of that when you work your socks off and look at your deductions.
So with Bognor almost certain to lose a few more fruits for the season of 2022 we cannot tolerate, nor should we the mass destruction of what we believe in and stand for.
So our plan for Bognor would have to have been something like this:
Remove some more machines but keep a core 30/40 £5/£8 token machines within the family area albeit in an ‘area’ for just adults
Beef up the offering in both Mr Ps and Reel fruits to ensure our total 150 strong offering is the best it can be - for fruits
Inject the crazy, the incredible and the ‘zany’ family games into the family area, effectively doubling the family area. This means pinballs back to two, new bespoke ‘designed for us‘ games that pay tokens such as basketball and other games etc
So to allow for such a bold move we kind of feel that we need a ‘supporting arm’ for Bognor that isn’t too close but isn’t too far. It would allow us to then house a wealth of machines that we could potentially lose from Bognor family area which we estimate to be, when finalised, at around 30-40 £5 jackpots removed.
We have spoke above that to bring Maidstone back we must find homes for a surplus of machines, we have no choice, it has to be done.
So this is the twist in the tale, and if you think hard about this, we have also already told you the plan.
Part Two of the big red button is a new venture, and yes I think after a gruelling pandemic that has been so gloomy it’s time to ‘scream we wanna go faster’ and enjoy things again.
So if you have not guessed it by now, it’s time for a new venture, this with us of course means a NEW arcade which will quite possibly open BEFORE Maidstone.
Whilst we will not reveal the location of the new arcade at this stage we hope to have things all good to go in the first half of 2022. This new arcade will boast around 150 machines and showcase a wealth of all eras. As a Mr Ps Classic Amusements it will have everything from £2 jackpot upto the latest £500 jackpots with classics as our core focus. This twist in the tale is hopefully a good one and we hope that you will be as excited as we are.
So we strive for five, and five will become a reality, with Maidstone returning and the ‘fifth element’ joining us we will be back with all belts and braces. This will be intense hard work for us as a team and it will invigorate the brand and give the lift out of the pandemic doldrums and allow us to shoot for the stars again.
The dream is to have everything that’s at rest ‘out there’ and like a dog with a bone we will continue to graft, fight and push with passion to fulfil this dream. To fund this our work behind the scenes continues to intensify and our working days become longer and more vigorous, but we will carry on regardless.
You, the people want the best and we will continue to deliver this. Together we are making great things happen and we are all on this ride collectively sharing the classic adventure.
We wish you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.
Written from the heart, whilst cooking for our small family this Christmas morning.
All our love
Dave, Amelia, Ruby and Scarlett xxxx