Last weekend, Food News writer Pamela Denney and I went to Nashville to attend the Southern Food & Wine Festival co-hosted by Gaylord Opryland and the Food Network. On the drive over, I mentioned to Pam that I heard on the news there were signs that the recession is lifting. With that, Pam's head popped off her neck and she exclaimed, "What signs?! Ar, bim, plah!"
I was just making conversation, and since I'm no Paul Krugman, I hemmed and hawed and then changed the subject. But there were some things I took note of during the trip, such as the fact that nearly 1,000 people paid $55 for a ticket to see Alton Brown speak and the $9 boat ride inside the hotel (seriously) was always filled.
However, it was on our way back that we happened upon some real economic derring-do. At the Bucksnort exit, about 200 miles east of Memphis, is the Yesterdaze Vintage Pinball Museum. Doug Moore and his wife, Kathy Dunn, both 46, opened the museum a month ago. On display are about 15 machines, dating from the 1940s to the late '70s before they went digital. Admission is free.
Moore got into vintage pinball machines about four years ago when he happened upon a "Bank A Ball" at a flea market, which, in turn, led to a purchase of 10 machines for $2,500, paid by Dunn. A Craigslist post spurred a relationship with a fellow pinball enthusiast, who hired the couple to travel the country picking up machines. They were paid in pinball machines.
A year ago, Moore bought a collection of 400 machines for $80,000. That money came from two partners, who are splitting the business with Moore and Dunn, with each owning 25 percent. Moore and Dunn are receiving a stipend for living expenses, and any money that is made from the museum's snack bar or from Moore's side business repairing and selling the machines and parts goes toward paying the partners back.
Moore and Dunn are counting on the museum attracting pinball lovers and the snack bar attracting regulars. They haven't advertised yet but plan to do so for the museum's grand opening Labor Day weekend. By the way, the opening will include free hot dogs and ice cream cones, and, of course, free play on the machines.