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Sometimes, just giving in to an impulse can lead to profitability.
That impulse came to Boca Raton entrepreneur David Young four years ago while he was stopped at a red light in front of a game-repair store. The Funhouse pinball machine displayed at the shop rekindled his childhood passion for arcade gaming. He purchased it on the spot.
The Funhouse became the first of Young's personal game collection. A year and 14 games later, he was forced to rent a warehouse to store his machines.
One day in 2002, Young was taking delivery of yet another pinball machine at his warehouse. A stranger approached him and offered to buy the game for $5,000. The next day, Young's first customer brought along a friend, who bought $20,000 worth of games.
It wasn't long before Young recognized the absence of a national business dedicated to the home user of commercial coin-operated games. He followed his philosophy of "build it and they will come," and BMI Gaming of Boca Raton was born.
The company today is one of the largest online retailers and distributors of new and refurbished arcade games -- jukeboxes, pinball machines and coin-operated games -- delivering to clients as far as Europe and Japan. A total of 175 games are on working display at BMI's Boca Raton showroom, while more than 500 gaming products are available at its Web site, http://www.bmigaming.com.
Pinball and video arcade machines make up 70 percent of sales, but the company also sells table tennis, air hockey, foosball, pool and shuffleboard table games in addition to soda machines, snack machines, slot machines, neon signs, kiddy rides and games that print tickets to be exchanged for gifts.
Melrose Park, Ill.-based Stern Pinball President Gary Stern describes Young as "one of the movers and shakers of pinball retailing" who does a good job in spreading pinball gaming and "beating the drums."
Over the last three years, Young has used the Internet to fuel BMI's growth, conducting 90 percent of its business online. The strategy has meant sales of $4.5 million in 2004, and revenue is expected to double this year. According to Young, the company became profitable after its fifth month of business and has continued to be profitable.
Young's clients range from college students, Baby Boomers, Wall Street traders, athletes, movie celebrities and rock stars to churches and U.S. military bases.
The home-gaming market, nonexistent five years ago, has been spurred by several factors. The growth of the Internet has made it easier to match buyers and sellers, the Sept. 11, 2001, cocooning effect has kept people at home and the rise of the Baby Boomers with spending power has fed demand for home-gaming hardware.
Young now spends 80 hours each week single-handedly updating the 350-page Web site, managing his seven employees and traveling to visit clients and gaming conventions around the country.
"As long as you love what you do, it's not work," said Young, a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, who previously started a semiconductor business and a personal computer manufacturing company. "I get charged up doing what I do."