by Zhane Isom
(Plain Press, February 2017) Have you ever looked at art while playing a game of pinball at the same time? It does sound a little crazy and different, but that’s what you can do when you visit Gordon Square Arcade’s Superelectric Pinball Parlor.
The Superelectric Pinball Parlor opened a year ago, in the historic Gordon Square Arcade at the corner of W. 65th Street and Detroit Avenue. The goal of Superelectric Pinball Parlor is to create a forum where classic and new pinball machines and the artwork related to them can be enjoyed and shared with the whole community, said David Spasic, one of the owners.
Superelectric has acquired and restored more than 80 vintage games and will continue the process of preserving these pieces so people can see and enjoy them.
Owners Ben Haehn, David Spasic, and Nathan Murray came up with this idea of mixing the game of pinball with art several years ago.
“A few years ago, my father gave me a 1960s-era pinball machine called Cow Poke, which I remember playing as a kid,” said Haehn.
Since then Haehn and the other owners started buying old pinball machines and repaired them. Every Friday they opened their place located in the 78th Street studios, so people could play pinball and look at the art that belongs to it. “We thought it would be a great idea to let people come in once a week to enjoy art and play pinball at the same time,” said Spasic.
The owners saw how popular the art and pinball machines were getting so they found a first-floor space in Gordon Square Arcade.
“We saw how big we were becoming and we needed more space and more open days so everyone can come on their own time and enjoy playing pinball,” Spasic said.
Once they moved inside the arcade, they started buying more unique pinball machines and bringing in more art. “Some of these machines and art are over 50-years-old; you won’t see them anywhere else but here,” Haehn said.
The owners are trying to bring back a classic game with art and style. “It’s a great way to explore art and the fun of a classic [game] such as pinball that a lot of people forgot about,” Haehn said.
One of their newest pinball machines is called the “Ghost Busters,” which arrived this year. “We decided to add a new pinball machine since most of ours are over 50-years-old,” Haehn said. Most of the younger children that come in to play find the Ghost Busters pinball machine the best one. “I like coming in here during the weekend to play Ghost Busters because the machine is easier to use,” said 17-year-old Lavone Brooks, a Cleveland resident.
The owners are making plans now to put in a kitchen and apply for a liquor license. “If, and when a liquor license is acquired, alcohol will be served later in the day,” Spasic said. However, even with alcohol available, the owners want to keep the space more family oriented.
The Gordon Square Arcade opened to the public on April 8, 1921, long before the oldest pinball machines in the parlor. The building acted as a reflection of the neighborhoods growth into a commercial center, including a hotel, a market, a pool, a billiard room, 31 stores, a barber shop, and a restaurant at various times.
At one time, Gordon Square Arcade was known for its gambling. An appliance store was the lookout for a Billiard Hall located on the first floor of the arcade. When the police would raid the arcade, someone would ring a bell to warn gamblers –allowing them to leave out the back of the building in time.
The arcade was shut down in 1978 but it escaped the wrecking ball through the efforts of citizen groups and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization.
The arcade is now full of different stores, restaurants, and more. “The past couple of months we have had nearly every vacant space inside the arcade full of activity, which is really exciting,” said Chad Jones, director of marketing for the arcade.