As a young boy and his father walk down the stairs at Crazy Quarters Arcade
, Jeff Palmer waits for their reaction.
“Oh my gosh!” exclaims the boy, echoed by his dad. The pair look around the lower level of the arcade where 56 pinball machines of all genres and vintages await them.
Palmer sees that eager excitement all the time, but never tires of it. It’s those moments that make what he does worthwhile.
When they opened for business about a year ago on Center Avenue in Downtown Bay City, Palmer and his partner, Chris Exo, wanted to offer family fun at a reasonable price. Read about the arcade opening in this Jan. 8, 2021 Route Bay City article.
Crazy Quarters Arcade was such an immediate success they were soon talking about expanding.
The building already had the space, so they opened Nudged Underground opened in mid-January. The space features the largest public offering of pinball machines in the state of Michigan. Some of the vintage machines date back six decades.
Palmer says the name for the additional space is a nod to both Bay City’s history, as well as the game of pinball.
“We wanted to pay a little homage to Bay City’s past with the underground market, as well as nudged relates to pinball, so we just kind of tried to have something fun that pays homage to both.”
Nudging in pinball is when a player slightly moves the machine to get the ball to move.
The arcade is all about family fun, says Palmer, who adds many of the machines still only cost a quarter.
“We were very cognizant of the fact that this is for families and we would rather have somebody come back a dozen times in a month versus come once and say ‘Oh, that was expensive’ and not come back for another month or two,” Palmer says. “We want to be a place in Bay City where someone can come for five or 10 bucks and have a lot of fun.”
Pinball enthusiasts, whether they play in tournaments, in leagues, or just for fun, are invited to the arcade.
“Every event has always been all ages,” he says. “We never exclude anyone. This is all ages, all hours.”
Teens, young kids, and families can feel comfortable playing even the vintage games. The oldest of the machines currently in Nudged Underground is a 1959 model.
“It was made to have fun, and to be played,” Palmer says.
He and Exo have been buying and restoring pinball machines for years. He has been collecting for over 10 years, and Exo for over 25. The machines on display aren’t the oldest machines in their collection. Eventually a 1931 machine will be restored and make its way to the arcade, too.
“These are machines I’m bringing back from the dead,” he says, adding he wants people to play them. “A lot of what we do is investing back in the business. It’s really cool to see people having fun.”