Patrick Pietras is more than a pinball maestro, he’s a pinball advocate. Pietras is part of the Palmetto Pinball Club, and in silver sphere-tossing terms, he’s the speaker box that screams your score and rallies you on.
“We’ve found that there are an awful lot of people out there with pinball machines, but they are often in need of repair and maintenance,” Pietras says. “As a community, we need to develop more expertise and education about these issues, so I want to create a hub for this kind of community knowledge.”
If you’ve never heard of the Palmetto Pinball Club, that might be about to change. The bumper ball boys are packing up their reclusive Devine Street club and heading to a prominent new location on Meeting Street in West Columbia. Palmetto Pinball has currently earned $1,675 of its $2,500 goal on the fundraising site GoFundMe to facilitate the move, which they hope will bring increased accessibility.
“That means more appropriate physical space, and regular hours, so we’re adjusting our club model somewhat,” Pietras says. “We’re also taking advantage of this opportunity to expand our collection of machines, and even begin adding some classic arcade games.”
Since getting their first command center in September of 2015, Pietras says community interest in their chosen pastime has grown. Following that interest and his own three-month mental dedication to relocating, he found Palmetto Pinball’s new location in the building that previously held the Meeting Marketplace along the main West Columbia thoroughfare.
While they’re opening up and expanding their clubhouse to more of an arcade-style space, the pinheads are also making their new spot a museum. Accordingly they’ll be providing community outreach about their favorite lounge sport. To help accomplish this they’ve partnered with the largest pinball parts distributor in the nation, Marco’s Specialties, a group situated just across the river in Lexington.
“Working with them, we’re going to be able to create a pinball museum focused on the restoration and preservation of these amazing machines, which are both technical wonders and works of art,” Pietras says.
“Unlike non-profit museums, though, we’ve chosen to make a business out of this. I think that will provide the impetus for us to continually innovate and to really pursue our goals of not just community outreach but community participation.”
Part of the new mission of the Palmetto Pinball Club and their new storefront is to keep the party going. They’ll now have a picnic and patio area along with more event space surrounding their growing collection of pinball machines. They even have a spiffy board game table. All of this amounts to one thing for Pietras — “plain good old fun.”
“There just aren’t enough spots in Columbia for birthdays, play dates, and gatherings of friends,” he says.
Pietra and company are also aiming to make the new headquarters not so hard on the dime, a long tradition in the Pinball world.
“Pinball was meant to be cheap fun,” he says. “Heck, that was part of the allure as kids was that you’d see how long you could play on just a handful of quarters. Well, there are no quarters now, but we still want to retain that spirit.”