On a rainy Tuesday morning I made my way up to Lakewood, New Jersey to visit the Jersey Jack Pinball facility. The building is unassuming with a simple sign outside, but inside is a world of pure imagination.
Jersey Jack made their pinball debut in 2012, with their innovative Wizard of Oz machine. Jack Guarnieri has been in the pinball world for 36 years, starting as a serviceman for electro-mechanical machines, to developing amusement centers, to designing games, and of course, selling them. Frankly, if anyone was going to start a new, and innovative company, it was going to be him.
The factory builds 10-12 machines per day, and everyone working inside works like a well-oiled machine. No matter what stage the machine is at, they are constantly testing the machines to make sure everything is working. They also time every step of construction to make sure one station doesn’t back up another.
Everything is also hand made (aside from the nuts, bolts and other such hardware), and Jack tries hard to make sure everything is American made. That being said, his play fields are made in Germany. While most play fields are seven layers of wood, his are 11. Sometimes these boards come in a little wonky, or perhaps they’re missing something. Instead of trashing them, they are donated or used as wall art, which a lot of collectors and pinball enthusiasts enjoy.
Getting licensing for the games is really the most time-consuming process. It took two years to get the license for WOZ, and four to get The Hobbit. Interestingly enough, they were the first company to use LED lighting, LCD screens, and more advancements to make their pinball machines stand out from the rest.
At the end of the day, these machines are made for people to enjoy. Jersey Jack is making games to last generations, as he genuinely wants to bring joy to people’s lives. One of the best feel-good stories I’ve heard in a while involved a WOZ pin, as well. A man bought a machine, had them put a diamond ring on Toto, and used the pinball machine to propose to his girlfriend. Pinball is about putting smiles on people’s faces, and Jersey Jack is doing just that.