How a passion for pinball turned into a business

South Dakota News

WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) – What started out as a love for playing pinball, has now turned into a business.

Clay and Ryan Wilfahrt not only enjoy playing pinball, but they’ve taken that passion and are now fixing up and restoring pinball machines.

“I was out visiting my brother when he was living in Deadwood and we started playing pinball out there, we just went one night to a bar and started playing a few games,” owner Retro Bros. Pinball, Clay Wilfahrt said. “Eventually decided that I wanted to have my own machine, but in order to be able to convince my wife to allow me to do it, I also had to learn how to fix them so I went and bought the most rundown machine I could find.”

From there, he taught himself how to fix the machine. Then his brother Ryan got involved.

“He bought one game and fixed it up, then convinced me to buy one and I bought it and went through it kind of methodically over time and figured out how to get it running and fixed it up, and then sold it to a guy out in Mobridge, and then started buying more, I think I bought two after that, fixed those up and pretty soon I filled my entire living room up with pinball machines,” co-owner Retro Bros. Pinball, Ryan Wilfarht said.

About a year and a half ago they started their business, Retro Bros. Pinball.

“So it grew from us just playing a few games and then learning how to fix them and then loving the process of fixing and restoring them and really taking things that people see as junk in their garage to something that people can come here and play,” Clay Wilfahrt said.

Not only are they fixing up these games, you can also find some of their machines in businesses.

“Putting them in bars and restaurants and breweries then people go there to play them and pay to play them,” Clay Wilfahrt said. “We have them in Watertown, Brookings, Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, and then some over in Minnesota.”

You’ll also find their fixed up games at The Guest House in Watertown.

“We started with four games here at The Guest House in Watertown with just the intention of having those there and we would play them when we had free time and it just evolved, we kept buying broken games and fixing them up and putting them out,” Ryan Wilfahrt said.

“One of the neat things about it, is even in here you’ll come in here on a Friday night and it will be busy and on one end you will have 15 or 16 year old playing a game of pinball and then on the other end it will be someone who is 60 or 70, so it’s one of those things where a lot of people from older generations enjoy teaching younger generations how to play,” Clay Wilfahrt said.

Ryan says getting the machines back in working condition can be challenging.

“We’re still learning right now, we’ve used each other as resources quite a bit, just to go back and forth and then the internet, going on and looking at guides and talking to people on forums about how to fix them, but really with the help of the communities online and each others help we’ve been able to fix almost everything we’ve encountered,” Ryan Wilfahrt said.

And now this business has grown into much more than these two could have imagined.

“It really grew a lot quicker and a lot bigger than we ever expected it would,” Clay Wilfahrt said. “We would be open to continuing to see it grow, we just love pinball and we love playing and we love bringing these out into the public so other people can play as well so really any direction that takes us to bringing more people to play pinball we’ll follow.”

“It’s exciting to see something that is so worn out and someone thinks it’s kind of past it’s prime, bring it back to life again,” Ryan Wilfahrt said.

They have also started pinball leagues. Originally they only had league one night a week, but have had a high interest level, so have added more days for leagues.

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