For anyone interested in rare collectibles or pinball game machines, the Pinball Museum in downtown Asheville would be a good place to visit times past.
Before TC. Di Bella decided to open this museum, he was a teacher for 22 years. He had been keeping his eyes open for a business opportunity that he could possibly pursue.
At that time, Di Bella owned only three pinball machines, but when people visited his house, they were always interested in them.
“One night, a guest sent me a link to the Seattle Pinball Museum and talked about how cool it was. After this, the light bulb went off. I thought that if you put this in Asheville, it would be huge,” Di Bella said.
Di Bella opened the Pinball Museum in Downtown Asheville during August of 2013 and after the first year, he realized they needed a bigger space because people were already getting wait listed each day.
“This has been such a successful experience. We started making a profit the second month in business, which is almost impossible,” Di Bella said.
To solve the space problem, Di Bella was interested in a bigger space that a restaurant which recently closed had occupied. He came to an agreement with the landlord and signed a five-year lease. This space, which is in downtown Asheville, manifested itself into the pinball museum’s current location.
“Because of its great location, we don’t have to advertise at all. Our budget for that (advertising) is zero,” Di Bella said.
The Museum offers customers the opportunity to come in and look around at all the machines for free if there are no lines. However, anyone wanting to play the games can pay the $15 adult/$12 child admission that will allow them to play as long as they desire.
Currently, the museum is approaching 100 machines, and they keep 40 available and running at all times. If a machine goes out of order, workers can quickly replace it with the extras from storage by the next morning. Out of the entire stock, all but two of the pinball machines are fully functionable and are open to play when on the floor.
The museum has proved a popular place during the summer and on the weekends. According to Di Bella, the busiest day is always Saturday. Customers come in right at the noon opening and a wait list begins approximately 30 minutes after that and ends around 6:00 p.m..
During the summer, nearly every day is busy, according to Di Bella. He said that a wait list is necessary due to the amount of tourists visiting then.
Di Bella pointed out that the museum houses a very rare collectible, The Hercules Machine. There are only 280 of them still around, and it is famous for being the world’s largest pinball machine.
“We have one of the Hercules Machines, and it actually works. That is what’s so rare about it,” Di Bella said.
Di Bella said he is very careful about the machines he buys. He has bought most of the collection from select websites but occasionally takes up an offer from a family who is willing to sell or trade their machines.
“I think one of the most interesting things about the museum was that the owner was interested in selling and buying machines from different customers,” said Roberson junior and pinball enthusiast Timothy Jenkins.
Jenkins has been interested in these machines for several years due to his father selling and buying new machines throughout his childhood. About a year ago, before the remodeling of the museum, Jenkins went and visited the venue.
“It was a really fun experience. I already have seven pinball machines at my house, so it was fun to go and play different machines at the museum for as long as you want,” Jenkins said.