HOPKINS, Minn. (WCCO) — There’s no question times are still tough for many small business owners. An arcade owner in Hopkins has never had it harder.
Pinball is Lloyd Olson’s passion that he just can’t let go of.
“It’s a work of art you can play,” said Olson, who owns SS Billiards.
Olson and his mother bought the arcade when he was only 18 years old. In the last 40 years, he’s experienced the rise and fall of the arcade business.
“Air hockey was huge. Then foosball was big until about 1976, ’77,” said Olson. “The first video game fad was about ’81, ’82, that flopped and that flopped huge.”
Olson now runs SS Billiards by himself, and staying in business has never been more difficult. Money is tight because of family emergencies, a costly divorce and the pinball industry is on life support. Perhaps the biggest hit to his business was the county smoking ban, which Olson claims dropped business by 90 percent.
“I don’t smoke, but I didn’t care I was taking in money,” said Olson.
When he needs money, Lloys sells a pinball machine at times for what he can. Olson said his business has survived because SS Billiards is one of a few surviving pinball destinations. He also prides himself on customer service.
“If something breaks, I’m right there,” said Olson. “If you lose money, you get your money back. Things are maintained. They’re clean. They’re working.”
Olson recently threw a customer appreciation party with food, friends and free pinball.
“Even though times are tough, I wanted to do something back,” he said.
It was a celebration of 40 years in business. Lloyd is hoping SS Billiards can survive long enough to celebrate 50 years.
“If I’m alive yeah, I’ve got no choice,” said Olson.