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Weekly Waffle

Christmas Message 2022

Turbulence is something that often is referenced whilst taking a flight. Like most things it can be unexpected, often unwanted and on occasion quite frightening.

2022 began with much hope, and relief with the easing of the COVID situation and general return to normal, or some normality at least. Still today some policies and protocol uses COVID as an excuse rather than a reason.

Exactly one year ago we wrote our last Christmas message. We had many positive plans ahead and announced Maidstone Reel Fruits return and revealed our new arcade adventure in Fareham. It’s been a very turbulent time with Fareham, with leaks since day one causing quite substantial flooding. This has now been resolved and we look forward to an opening date for Fareham to be announced in the coming weeks.

So the rebirth of Maidstone Reel Fruits has literally been like flicking a switch, as if time stood still. The arcade has come back stronger and mightier than ever before and whilst we often may reflect as the past being the good times, we feel these are the magic times right now. Maidstone is the closest to ‘right’ as we have managed especially after a reboot against its already well established and loved setup PRE pandemic. The blend of classic games and the fact that we don’t operate any b3 (£500 jackpot machines) has been pivotal in Maidstone becoming such a popular venue.

Many of you may wonder why we switched Facebook pages, but on the 26th May 2022 there was some malicious activity that locked our account and we therefore lost our entire page. With huge thanks to those involved we managed to get a small amount of our subscribers back to our new page that you see today Mr P’s Classic Amusements & Reel Fruits.

We could not announce the reopening of Maidstone or inform you that all was good, nor tell everyone that we had been flooded 2 days before the grand relaunch, it was a tough time. Many long nights were spent working flat out, literally non stop 20 hour days everyday, stopping only when starting to get dizzy and more deluded than I am normally.

With sheer determination Maidstone opened on time, I don’t recall too much of the opening day but it was a good turn out from what I ‘think’ I witnessed. The foundations from Reel Fruits were hard to build and often I find the harder something is to create, the stronger it is and the longer it will last. A little like a house, an older house has strong foundations and is built to last and stand the test of time. It was wonderful to celebrate our ten years at Reel Fruits in October this year.

This year we became 13 years old as a company, an unlucky for some number. We didn’t decide to celebrate the anniversary of Mr Ps Classic Amusements birth purely because of the ‘turbulence’ within the company and the crisis we found ourselves in. Already having one arcade - Chatham - closed due to the member of staff signing off sick each month we felt there was little to celebrate. It has hit us very hard regarding Chatham and it has not only been damaging to our brand but also to our customers whom have been forced elsewhere.

When we started out in our beloved little Gravesend arcade, paying £6000 per year as rent, life, I guess was much simpler. Amelia and I would work 10-5 each day and have Sundays off, naturally we would mostly stay open an extra couple of hours, something which has stayed with us until today. The bills were just one site, the jackpots were all small and the year 2009 was still quite a tough time with the credit crunch causing big financial pressures. The arcade was hard to get started and took months, but was a good success - against all odds - being off the beaten track.

Now though it’s not very often Amelia and I see each other, often we are spending 2/3 weeks apart whilst I am in Maidstone and she continues to run Bognor Regis. This is very hard for us as a family and whilst I am not against the RMT the rail strikes have increased the length of time away immensely. This has also halted a lot of valuable progress with Fareham and delayed things somewhat.

Our arcades have been pioneering in bringing back the classic amusements to the high street and we have also been inspiring to others that have cropped up around the country, and it all began in Gravesend in the middle of economic gloom.

Today we find ourselves in a bad way as a country, and make no doubt that the energy crisis is one of the biggest factors of hardship. The other battle we face is the greed of companies increasing their prices to inflated levels because they can do, a little like companies still blame everything on COVID. We must all muscle through as we do, there are a lot of factors that we must be positive about too. In around 8 weeks the warmer months will be with us, spring will mean less heating and a good chunk of Christmas (most of us have put on our credit cards) will be reduced.

Over the years much of the wonderful things in life have been taken away from us and technology has changed its course from something we wanted to embrace to now something we may one day fear. One thing that cannot be dissolved as quick is the resilience of the people and how strong willed we all are.

We have noticed lately that we have been quite busy, perhaps bucking the trends of others, but people know a good thing when they see it. We have absorbed all of our costs and extra expenses and not passed anything onto our customers, and this will remain the case. What we decided to do this year was invest like never before ahead of the energy crunch and notable above inflation ‘greed grab’ from the commercial sector.

Now that we have pulled the plug on all investment we can concentrate on our back catalog of games, restoring those and bringing games that would be long gone back to restored former glory.

The only way we see our survival as a company is to continue to be busy, vibrant, the best games and best percentages, basically just continue as we are with our ethos. In darker times people need good low cost entertainment more than ever, and as players ourselves we only present what we would want or wish for.

The news I used to enjoy watching, perhaps it was Sir Trevor McDonald that did it for me, a news presenter that would deliver the news in such a manner you would feel safe in its representation. It was also great to still be up at 10 when you were supposed to be in bed. Sadly my view on the media has somewhat changed, not only does it feel ever so more political but also biased. Of course we have always known there has been political bias in the papers etc but so called impartial news platforms also like to beat the ‘glum drum’. The news and current affairs have always been of interest to me, but in part these days I would rather not know.

Times like Christmas bring everyone together, but also can be tough times for those who are missing. It doesn’t matter how many years it’s been, it’s always hard to be around so much warmth and love and someone we crave so much not be there. For me I like to take a moment, pour a drink and just look out of the window and raise a glass. Who knows if anyones out there to see it, but for me personally it’s my salute of love for those not here today.

The girls are still racing around full of beans and so excited. They have dressed the lounge with ripped paper and loved every minute of it. The bird is in the oven, unusually I have actually got it out to defrost yesterday morning - normally I forget. Today and tomorrow mean ever so much to us, it is two days of total relax and family time - something quite rare for us in truth.

Our thoughts go out to all of those who are on their own today. Nobody should ever be on their own at Christmas and I have a little list of people that I will be calling today to wish them a happy Christmas and to share some human contact with on this day.

So with so much turbulence this year how can we summarise 2022? It’s been a tough old year with real highs and mind boggling lows. We have had some wonderful additions to the team this year in Tracey, Gary and Dave these three have been fantastic and we are so grateful for their commitment, passion and care. Maidstone reopening on May 28th 2022 was a HUGE thing and the arcade has its sparkle back that in truth was missing in the final year or so pre pandemic. The low points is the closing of the Chatham arcade being front runner. Due to lack of communication and transparency, Chatham has been open and closed more than a car door. Sadly since September it has been closed and not traded since.

Chatham was born on my late fathers birthday 17th March - St Patrick’s Day. Way back in 2017 we opened her up to a wave of people and the arcade blossomed and flew. People came and people went with the workforce there, and we did have problems on the way - I will not deny. The loyal band of customers stayed with us, and whilst we began to inject new games into the arcade we was struggling to get people to simply ‘open’.

The Chatham arcade was a real pain to open, we had a very strict licensing condition and one from the planning office. In the end we had to put over two tonnes of sound proofing into Chatham at an expense of around £11,000 before we could get it sound tested and then approved. This echoes the fact that the harder something is to build the stronger it’s foundations.

So without further delay it gives us great pleasure to announce in a FINAL announcement that Chatham Mr P’s Classic Amusements is to reopen. Not only will it be brimming with classic machines like Maidstone Reel Fruits but additionally house some of the latest cutting edge £500 jackpot machines - on the highest percentage payouts.

Expect to see what Maidstone hasn’t got, such as winner takes all, rich and famous, monopoly, an array of Maygays - you name it - we cannot wait! This is only possible thanks to us finding someone who is passionate, willing to work and to give flexibility to the players with extended closing times. This person we have lined up for Chatham is keen, raring to go and will have a big day in the belters that we will be putting into the arcade.

Chatham will return February 25th 2023 10am til LATE.

This is something that we have prioritised and pushed in before Fareham. As you know we have had delays with Fareham but this will be why the announcement for there will be at short notice. We have a team member already lined up for there who is incredibly passionate - has proved that by waiting some 3/4 months with very little movement from us on the matter.

Finding the right team and the right people for some companies will be easy, for us it’s very hard. We like things done in a certain way and ensure that the customer is always put first. Many of our team have often said (past and present) that our percentages are too high or we give to much away. Whether it’s a 2p pusher player getting a free can of drink, higher percentage payouts than online or the free food we buy - always non advertised. We always explain to the person in question that as the titanic sank the band continued to play, we go down in our best.

The team we have now and whom are joining us in the near future are certainly going to help us roll out more classic amusements in the future.

More than ever we feel it’s our duty to keep doing what we are doing and ensure that our ‘big red button’ is fully engaged to continue the plans we set out some time ago.

We mentioned recently in a weekly waffle the fabulous four or the power 5. Next year ladies and gentlemen you will see for the first time in our history the Power 5. There will be five Classic Amusements under our Mr P’s Classic Amusements and Reel Fruits banner, the mind boggling decision will be which one do you pick?!

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and an Happy New Year

Dave, Amelia, Ruby and Scarlett xxxx

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