When Scene arrives at the corner of Detroit and West 65th, the former Yellowcake storefront that soon will be the home of the Superelectric Pinball Parlor, Ben Haehn and David Spasic are planing some lumber. It's going to be used for the shuffleboard table-turned-bar.
Along with partner Nathan Murray, Haehn and Spasic are the visionary wizards behind the hotly anticipated vintage arcade concept, an outgrowth of their studio and pad at 78th Street Studios. The artist trio intends to have their parlor opened and fully functioning by the end of August.
The three buddies, all of them in their 30s, met in college at Bowling Green and have been working collaboratively at 78th Street for almost eight years. Pinball's a more recent development for them. It arose out of their work on film sets. They've all had gigs off and on in art and prop departments — Ben once had to make five identical sandwiches for a Kyrie Irving commercial — and one film script required a working pinball machine.
"My parents had an old one in their basement," Haehn says, "and I worked on it for almost a month. I just fell in love with the process."
"Pretty soon, we were playing nonstop," adds Spasic, "mostly just to hang out. We started buying machines to work on them, thinking that we'd resell them and buy new ones."
"We laughed when we got up to 20 games," says Haehn. "Now we've got 65."
As they prep their new parlor location, which will serve food and beer as well, they've got pinball machines in their bedrooms, in friends' basements, at the Blazing Saddles bike shop. They continue to accumulate games to rehab from as far away as Texas. Often they purchase from individual sellers, older folks who've had a machine in their basement since the '70s and are happy to see it in passionate hands.
And even though arcade bars like 16-Bit and board game bars like Sidequest and Tabletop have become popular, the Superelectric guys don't see themselves as occupying the same niche.
"We are pretty much strictly pinball," says Haehn, "and that's a lot more challenging for operators because of the time and effort of the maintenance. We're also very community-involved, which means our days and our evenings are very full." Haehn mentions that they often host field trips for youngsters to teach them the science behind pinball and to let them experiment with designing art for a machine of their own creation.
"Part of it also is that we all still identify as artists," says Spasic. "That's a huge part of how we approach this, and everything we do."
Haehn agrees, and as he walks Scene through the space, he articulates a vision that's much more than a bar with a marketable gimmick.
"I want people to feel the way they did when they were 16 at the local pizza parlor playing with their friends," Haehn says. "Some people, yeah, they want a beer in their hand. But for a lot of people, that's not the kick. We're creating an environment."
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