Pinball Wizards

Matthew Talley (right) slings some cans at Lynn’s Arcade: A Pinball Parlor and Can Slangery, after the amusement business he and friends launched was allowed to-reopen in June.

Among the friends who own Lynn’s Arcade: A Pinball Parlor and Can Slangery, there aren’t a lot of hard rules. But Meredith Sherwin expects everyone (and by everyone, she mostly means her husband, Matthew Talley, and Cary Carmichael, the male half of their husband-and-wife business partners, Cary and Nikki Carmichael) to abide by this: “No prison, no hospital.”

Why you’d need to warn your partners in pinball of that isn’t evident. Lynn’s is an arcade, with 36 pinball machines, and refrigerator cases of beer, soda, kombucha and seltzer, set in a former plumbing supply storage space in Seaside. It’s neither a location nor a hobby that engenders dangerous antics.

But then Talley and Cary Carmichael start telling stories, and the reason for the “no prison, no hospital” warning becomes clear.

To acquire the arcade’s Evel Knievel game (“one of the rarest artifacts in pinball” and “the dumbest thing I ever did with money,” Cary says) from an anonymous seller in Europe, they had to negotiate for three weeks and then enlist a previously unknown “bag man” to deliver the money, transport the machine to the airport, ensure it was professionally crated and then shipped to the U.S.

“We had to find someone in Europe to pay for the game, because the seller would only accept cash on glass,” Cary says. “But my cousin Paul in Germany knows this metal head in Amsterdam, and I transferred the money to him and trusted him to get it to the guy there.”

The bag man got a percentage, and a thank you delivery of rare beers, and the game arrived.

What started as a shared interest between neighbors (over-the-fence chatter about darts and then, when Talley found the Carmichaels had a game at home, pinball) morphed into a regular pursuit. They developed a league that met regularly to play at what Talley describes as an “undisclosed location” (a warehouse in an industrial area of Salinas) and then into the business called Lynn’s, named after Cary’s father.

Just seven months after opening came Covid, and with Covid came the shutdown. The partners all have full-time day jobs doing other things – Talley is general manager of Elroy’s Fine Foods, the Carmichaels work in restaurant equipment supply – and thanks to their game collection and local fans, the partners put together a new business model and rode out the pandemic. For $200 to $400 a month, depending on the game, they delivered machines to people’s homes.

“We were able to pivot hard,” Talley says. “Luckily all of our league members are amazing and rented games for the year-and-a-half we were gone. That’s how we were able to survive.”

Winning the Seaside Business Plan competition, with its $10,000 prize, during the pandemic didn’t hurt either.

On a recent Friday night, the Carmichaels and Talley, whose wife did the interior design work on the space, are behind the counter, taking care of customers, explaining the beverage menu to people peering into the cases and cracking an endless stream of jokes. They try to stock as much locally made as possible, with beers coming from a variety of local breweries.

Pinball is stupid fun to play, but there’s a lot of strategy involved that you might not realize exists. Asked what makes a game good, and Talley says it’s a matter of rule set and difficulty – the things you need to accomplish in order to score more points.

“Some games are basic. Hit A, B and C, and you get a good score. Other games, you have to do A, B and C at the same time so you’re stacking objectives,” Talley says. “Some games are super simple on the rules, but extremely difficult.”

On Aug. 2, Lynn’s leagues relaunch, with the general league starting that Monday, and the Tuesday ladies league starting Aug. 3.

If you just want to play, it’s $15 in the door ($10 for minors), no coin drops. You can leave and come back, you’re welcome to bring your own food and it’s 100-percent family friendly.

LYNN’S ARCADE: A PINBALL PARLOR and CAN SLANGERY, is at 1760 Fremont Blvd., Unit D1, Seaside.

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