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July 22, 2011


Walk a mile in his/her moccasins — Coin-op style
By Jack Kelleher

Twelve summers ago, a group of industry luminaries — leaders of AAMA, AMOA and the trade show management team of W.T. Glasgow — gathered in LaCrosse, Wisc., for some planning meetings. For me, it was the first of many such meetings that have been conducted since, but one of the most memorable parts of that particular gathering (besides the session on the houseboat on the mighty Mississippi River) was the tour of Stansfield Vending's then headquarters.

It was an education for all and particularly fascinating to an industry newcomer like me. I recall host Jim Stansfield — who was serving as AMOA President at that time — commenting that very few manufacturers visited his facilities. I could tell he relished the opportunity to show off his shop for his colleagues ... and rightfully so.

And just so you don't think I'm making this stuff up, here's a picture memorializing the event. Left to right are recognizable names and faces: Stansfield, Rudowicz, Cararra, Hayes, Sladek, Green, Wesson, Shelton, Kress, Glasgow, Derrick, Seninsky, Glasgow, Fay, Novak, Capilouto and Hawkins.

Fast forward to last week. While in Florida, I stopped in and visited with one of the guys who was at that meeting in LaCrosse in the summer of 1999: Mr. Al Kress of Benchmark Games, Inc. He led me on an enlightening tour of the plant that is cranking out redemption games at a furious pace and dispatching them worldwide. The factory and offices — formerly a Scotty's lumberyard — in Hypoluxo, were and are impressive. In an age when the primary function at many U.S. manufacturing operations is assembling components produced elsewhere, it was encouraging to see raw materials converted to finished goods. They're making stuff!

Sensing the same pride of ownership conveyed by Stansfield a dozen years ago, I asked him — and his partner, Ron Haliburton — if they host many operators on tours of their facilities.

"Not many" and "not enough" were the combined responses.

That's Al, at left in the accompanying photo, along with Ron in the center and myself at right, near the company's front entrance.

So, what's the point, you ask? It seems to me that in street operations and game manufacturing, we have two very different universes that are tied together via the common mission of making a living by providing entertainment value for patrons at various types of venues.

If you've never seen where or how some of the best-selling equipment on your route is produced, I'm confident a factory road trip or two would be well worth the effort. And, if you've never spent any time on a route or in the shop of your operator customers, it would be an eye-opener, to be sure.

It was for me back in '99 and on my many tours since, as I was reminded last week.