You don’t need a fistful of dollars or a wallet of plastic.
A pocket of quarters will do the trick.
What’s up with that?
The Machine Shop in Langley has about 70 pinball and video games at the ready.
“When you drop a quarter into the machine and you hear that coin thunk, it’s game on,” said owner Tim Leonard, 48, who spent a lot of time — and quarters — in arcades as a kid growing up in Maryland.
An ’80s change machine converts a dollar into four games of pinball pleasure: “The Addams Family.” “Capt. Fantastic.” “Buck Rogers.” “Zombie Raid.” Or digital games such as “Frogger” and “Dance Dance Revolution.”
Colors flash. Numbers spin. Aisles clamor to the mantra of “Ghostbusters” and the bark of “Player 2, you’re up.”
Most arcades these days use tokens, not quarters.
“We are one of the few true coin-drop arcades,” Leonard said. “We cycle through about five gallons of quarters a month.”
The arcade is a few blocks uphill from the downtown art epicenter of Langley. It’s in the green corner building at 630 Second St. that has been a lumber yard and many other things.
Next to the arcade is All Washed Up Laundromat, also driven by quarters. About the only other coin-fed venues these days are The Daily Herald’s newspaper boxes, gumball machines and those mechanical pony rides in front of supermarkets.
The laundry was there long before Leonard moved into the neighboring building, which housed a bakery when he rented a space in 2016 for the collection of pinball machines he restored at his workshop.
“It got to the point where I needed to find a storage unit. Then I said to myself, ‘If I have to get a storage unit then I’ve gone too far. I’m hoarding,’ ” Leonard said.
He wanted the machines to be shared and played.
“I started out with 12 pinball machines and five arcade games,” he said.
About six months later the bakery moved out of the building, so he brought in more games. Some belong to other people who, like Leonard, collect machines and need a place to park them. One room has a friend’s virtual reality games — those don’t take quarters.
The Machine Shop is a hub for birthday parties, along with art shows and live music. A cafe, Bumpers, is the latest addition, with carnival food and a cotton candy machine.
The arcade is a place where his free-spirited daughter, aptly nicknamed “Zippy,” would have loved coming.
“It was inspired by her spirit,” he said.
She was killed when a tree fell on the family’s car on Christmas Day, 2011. She was only 9. She shared his enthusiasm for arcade games, and he took her to a pinball convention one year.
Leonard was injured and not able to work at his metal fabrication business, Heavy Metal Works.
He started making neon and letter-bulb signs during his recovery, and this led to restoring pinball machines.
“They all clicked together. The signs have mechanical features inside that make them flash. The old pinballs have the same mechanisms. It all kind of happened at the same time,” he said. “The passion rekindled.”
His vintage-style work lights up the town and the island.
He made the Langley Motel sign, a 9-foot neon sculpture that illuminates the entrance to downtown as well as the small inn. The sparkling cone over Sprinklz Ice Cream Parlor and Coffee Shop on First Street is his doing. Those 8-by-30 feet WICA letters in front of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts are his, too.
His “Be AmaZing” bulb sign brightens the arcade in Zippy’s honor.
“It was the first piece I made after she passed away, and I made the Z a little bigger,” he said.
A “Boom!” sign greets patrons at the door.
Leonard often can be found in the shop. He’s the tall guy with long blond hair, doing surgery on circuits and coin jams. Do him a favor and don’t use Canadian quarters.
He’s the pinball wizard outside the arcade. As a contender in this year’s Mr. South Whidbey island pageant, Leonard danced and lip-synced to an Elton John rendition of “Tommy” wearing a pink suit and 4-inch platform shoes.
The arcade is a destination for Susan Jarvis and her teen twins, James and Izzy, on visits from Vermont.
“The whole family looks forward to it,” Jarvis said. “We come every day. I like the old-school pinball. It’s distracting from the real world. I like the visuals.”
“I got addicted to ‘Donkey Kong 3,’ ” James said.
“I really like ‘Pac-Man,’ myself,” Izzy added as the yellow blob chomped Pac-Dots before getting chomped by the likes of Blinky, Pinky and Inky.
Lisa Gilberts, of Clinton, gravitates to the “Spider-Man” and “Kiss” pinball machines.
“It makes you happy when you walk in,” Gilberts said. “Any age can love what’s going on here, whether it be a 70-year-old guy who grew up with that, or my grandboy. I started him at 2 years old. My niece likes the dance game. She says, ‘Come on, Auntie.’ ”
The games will add some Boom! to your life.
It only takes a few quarters.