March 2011 - Press Release
SAYREVILLE, NJ -- New from Coast To Coast Entertainment LLC is a control board that allows operators to program settings on skill cranes with dead-on accuracy, and monitor machines with smartphones. The Stage 1 crane controller board features the manufacturer's new AutoClaw technology, an advanced function that enables a machine to automatically adjust itself.
The Stage 1 board is compatible with Coast To Coast's crane machine lines and recent Big Choice machines, which are made by Betson Enterprises. John Maurer, an owner of Sayreville, NJ-based Coast To Coast, said the new board takes the guesswork out of crane setup by eliminating the need to fiddle with dials, potentiometers and DIP switches.
The board allows operators to set credits between 25˘ and $10. They can also use it to adjust win ratios and set prize values ranging from $1 to $2,500. The board enables a variety of built-in diagnostic tests and reads SD cards, from which custom music can be uploaded to a crane machine.
The Stage 1 controller has communications software that allows cranes to connect to the Internet. Coast To Coast developed a remote monitoring application that runs on popular smartphones (BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows-based models). The app, available directly from Coast To Coast, permits operators to check game counters, run technical tests and adjust audio volume, among other functions, using their phones.
October - Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2010
Contact: Mr. Gary Balaban
Sayreville, New Jersey: Coast to Coast Entertainment, LLC, a one stop shop in providing the newest redemption and crane machine merchandise announced today that they are giving away a Free Gift to any customer that becomes a Fan of their New Company Products Page. From now until December 31st, 2010, Coast to Coast Entertainment will give the first 300 customers a Free Gift when they join the company’s Facebook Products Page. Read the latest news. Get the latest product information and view pictures of the newest products available from the company. Connect with other people in your industry interested in the same things. For more information, contact company officials directly at 1-800-224-1717 or visit the company’s web site: www.cranemachines.com.
June - Replay Magazine
Striking a Balance
Coast to Coast Moves Beyond Cranes into Games with Value Approach
This spring's ASI might have seen slower foot traffic in the aisles, but one company whose booth was steadily busy throughout the three-day show was New Jersey-based Coast to Coast Entertainment, which is celebrating its 10 year in business.
"We had new product, and it was priced right," explained company co-founder Gary Balaban. "The people there were serious, and we didn't have the same old stuff."
His longtime partner and company co-founder John Maurer said their success is based on the sustained ability to strike a balance between quality and price in all the products they have brought to market over the last decade. "That's what really sets us apart," he said.
Coast to Coast began as a crane importer and supplier, founded by Jersey shore arcade operators Balaban and Maurer. Since its inception, the company has continued to grow and expand, first into prize supply and now into ticket and merchandise games to complement their line of cranes.
"We are getting a lot more into games, and we are working with a number of different factories overseas while still maintaining our core philosophy," said Balaban. "We have been offered pieces that didn't fit that bill, and we just passed. We have also talked to a number of U.S. developers looking for big royalties, but they are not justified by today's market."
"Our growth into games is an extension of our core philosophy of giving the customer a high value with a lower price," added Maurer. "We're a return-on-investment company. With anything we make, we will do it better and at a more affordable price."
Their new line of product may be built in far-flung places like China, but each product has the distinct Coast to Coast stamp of approval. In fact, Balaban, Maurer and their staff are actively involved in designing and refining all of the products they ultimately bring to market. For instance, last fall they debuted a new Popeye-themed strength tester, but they are continuing to work through the design process, making sure it is completely ready to hit the streets when it's formally introduced this fall.
"We're not quick to bring out a piece until we have thoroughly tested it in our own location," explained Maurer. "We'll make it, but we want to make sure that the piece works before we ship anything to our customers. We've got more licensed pieces on the way. Licensing is important to us and a way for us to grow our products."
Coast to Coast has also developed a new line of pusher games including the Betty Boop-licensed Betty Bling, as well as the non-licensed Wheel of Tickets. These games were first created by one of Coast to Coast's manufacturing partners in China, but the U.S. game pros have spent countless hours refining these games for their operator customers.
Most recently, at this spring's ASI they introduced their first merchandise piece, an electronic puzzle game called Build A Brick designed to showcase high-end prizes for profitability. "We got such a reaction to this game at ASI," said Balaban. "People were calling right away looking to buy the game before it was even ready to go. It should be shipping in June."
Designed from the ground up at Coast to Coast, Build A Brick aims to fill the same niche that other popular merchandisers have sustained over recent years. "It's value priced and significantly less than its competitors," said Balaban.
Coast to Coast says its crane business continues to grow, despite softness in that market. Even the removal of hundreds if not thousands of cranes from Wal-Mart stores has not affected their sales. "We're still busy; it hasn't hit us," said Balaban.
In the crane category, the latest debut is the most recent configuration of their Toy Taxi game, which sits at a lower height for younger players. It's configurable as a skill crane or winner-every-time candy crane. Looking ahead, Balaban and Maurer say they have a lot of new products, both games and cranes, on the drawing board. But they will bring them out when the time is right.
"We don't want to spread ourselves too thin," said Balaban. "We try to give each machine its spotlight."
Despite trying economic times for many in the industry and the economy overall, Coast to Coast remains bullish about the future of their game and prize supply business.
"We're still steady," said Balaban. "Our volume has increased, and we have gotten some price concessions from our suppliers that helped defray the falling dollar and rising transportation costs.
"Overall, our numbers are growing every year," he continued. "We have also expanded aggressively into the distribution channel. We are trying to work aggressively with distributors as we develop new products."
Industry veteran Damon Paramore is handling distribution sales for Coast to Coast, working closely with a number of dealers around the country including firm's like East Coast Amusements and Discount Arcade, to name but a few. Internationally, Coast to Coast has struck a partnership with UDC and Micheal Green in the U.K. and formed other relationships at shows like ATEI in England and the Rimini show in Italy.
"We've got a couple of guys pounding the pavement, trying to get a foothold into the European market," said Balaban, who says the factory has gone to school on international requirements including gaming laws, voltage and coin and even play-style preferences.
Customer Service Is King
Coast to Coast prides itself on offering top-of-the-line customers with staffers dedicated to handling service calls on the phone. They have a no- wait policy for operators who call in with crucial technical questions, and all of the games go out the door with a one-year warranty.
On cranes sold directly to customers, Coast to Coast has a unique parts exchange policy. They will overnight parts to operators free of charge, a service they have recently extended to their redemption games, which are largely marketed through traditional distribution.
"I like to think our customer service is second to none," said Balaban. "I have been an operator for a long time, so I should know. If a customer calls us, they are going to have a part the next day."
Coast to Coast has also attempted to incorporate a more service-friendly mindset in their product design, using components like power supplies, coin mechs and motors that can be easily sourced from other companies in a pinch.
"We don't want operators to have to wait weeks for a power supply and motor to be shipped from overseas," said Balaban.
An Educational Approach
Coast to Coast's Maurer says being operators themselves has given the factory important insight into how their customers can best maximize revenues and profits.
"We are really trying to teach people more of what the East Coast shore owners have been doing for years," said Maurer. "If you were to walk into either of our arcades, you would see multiple cranes, and the majority of them have just one item. It's a unique approach to the business because most cranes run a mix of toys."
This approach is all part of a strategy to help improve the perceived values of prizes to the end customers. It's akin to a retail strategy that has been used successfully on the Jersey shore as well as internationally in markets like Japan.
"Some of our customers are literally building little storefronts with multiple cranes," said Maurer. "By having multiple machines, now you can put items in that you may not have thought to do so before. What you put in is what you get out. The higher the perceived value, the higher the return; it's as simple as that. Some of the items that have been making a lot of money are puffer balls, knobby balls, watches with little purses, Mp3 players, small purses, even redemption points for those who operate cranes in arcades."
Maurer has been taking this message on the road, preaching about the need to offer better prizes in a more marketing savvy fashion at various distributorships around the country.
When it's all said and done, many of Coast to Coast's customers say they like doing business with the energetic factory because of the quality and concern of their reliable staff.
"Our key employees and staff have been very stable over the course of the last half decade," said Maurer. "We don't have a lot of turnover. Everybody understands their job, and everyone wears multiple hats."
In fact, Balaban and Maurer are just as likely to be seen loading boxes when a new shipment of goods arrives at their office as anybody else on the payroll.
"I don't like to ask anybody to do anything that I am not willing to do," concluded Maurer. "We are very excited, and we have a lot of things on our list for the future. So watch out because we have bigger and better things coming."
Cover Story (April 2008) - Play Meter
Quality and service come first at Coast to Coast Entertainment
A young company has made its mark in the competitive categories of crane machines and prize merchandise.
In 2004, a relatively new, crane-centric company, Coast to Coast Entertainment, appeared on Play Meter's October cover. The young firm, headed by partners Gary Balaban and John Maurer, had just released its dynamic Hot Stuff crane with vibrant graphics that made coin machine operators stand up and take notice.
Since then, the company has released a series of uniquely-themed cranes, branched out into redemption equipment, and established itself as a major supplier of quality prize merchandise.
Gary and John have a long history; they met while attending engineering school and later owned and operated an arcade. That background, and arcade experience, has served them well. In 1994, they founded Coast to Coast Memory, a company that specialized in selling used memory to customers via the Internet.
Coast to Coast Memory then expanded into Coast to Coast Entertainment for the express purpose of selling top-notch Millennium 2000 crane machines. Gary and John have since sold Coast to Coast Memory to one of their suppliers, Micro Memory Bank. Gary explained, "They had duplicate facilities to ours, and we simply felt it was time."
The company has risen to prominence based on the strength of its equipment and merchandise. Strict commitments to both customer service and value haven't hurt either.
Talking to Gary and John today, it's clear that the company's best aspects have remained as the company has expanded into new categories of entertainment.
Coast to Coast has taken a firm hand in its plush prize merchandise mixes. "We now import our mixes directly from China, where they are made to our exact specifications, with our name stitched on the tags," Gary said.
He added, "The Asian companies provide us with physical samples, and we pick out what we like, and make changes. There are only about three or four other companies in the country that custom tag merchandise and put their name on their bulk items. The customer perceives that our merchandise is specially made for Coast to Coast, and that they're only going to get it from us. About every month or so, most of the products in our mixes change."
New product lines
In addition, Coast to Coast has pursued new product lines, such as coin pushers featuring the licensed image of Betty Boop, and a Popeye the Sailor novelty strength grip-tester, plus three or four new items the company is keeping under wraps for now. Gary promised, "They will all be similar in that they will be made overseas to our exact specifications, will meet U.S. standards of manufacturing and what the customer expects a quality machine to be, and will be priced extremely reasonably."
The company is not looking to shift focus however, just expand and grow the business by adding more pieces of reasonably priced, well-built equipment. Coast to Coast's focus will remain on the cranes that brought it to prominence. However, the company has found ways to keep its most famous product fresh as well.
"We've revamped all of our graphics on every model crane over the past couple of years," Gary pointed out. In the past, all Coast to Coast cranes were black; now only Hot Stuff and Coast to Coast's new jewelry crane, Got Bling, are dressed in black. The taxicab-themed game Toy Taxi is in yellow, and Dog Patrol is blue. Dog Patrol replaced Prize Depot, and is now being updated. Got Bling is the evolution of Jewelry Stop, changed in order to keep up with the hip-hop nation.
These changes reflect Coast to Coast's ability to recognize the influence of pop culture and to stay connected with today's customers.
Coast to Coast recently purchased Bev and Wally's arcade, directly next door to its previous arcade, The Game Room; both are located at Keansburg Amusement Park in Keansburg, N.J. "Because we own our own arcades and are actually in that business, we can tell our Coast to Coast customers what works for us and makes money," said Gary, who began in the arcade industry working his own routes in high school.
He added, "If someone is opening their first family entertainment center (FEC) and they forgot to put in a Cyclone, or a Slam-a-Winner, we can advise them that they must have these pieces because they are staples.
"We started manufacturing coin pushers because, from our experiences owning our own arcades, we know they make a lot of money. So we can confidently tell people they need a coin pusher."
Coast to Coast has retained many of the traits that got it where it is today, the most important being its dedication to quality products at a lower cost than the competition.
How do they do it? "First," said Gary, "Labor costs are lower in Asia. We tell them every detail of the nuts and bolts, how to do it, and how to do it the right way, and they manufacture our machines for us. We did have a limited run photo machine we made in the United States: 3-2-1 Smile. That was the only thing we ever made 100 percent in-house, and it was very labor intensive. We're better set up to do everything overseas."
Coast to Coast employs other methods to save its customers money. Gary explained, "We don't hire a specialist to design our plush mixes; we do it. Everyone in our office has a lot of experience in the industry, so it's a democratic thing; we ask for comments on the designs. We're very hands on and everyone wears many hats. When a big shipment of cranes or toys comes in, we all go to the warehouse to unload the products."
The staff is close to the size it was four years ago, perhaps a little smaller due to streamlining the operation. Merchandise mixes were previously done in-house, but ordering from China now means that is done at that point of origin and those savings can be passed on to customers.
On a light note, the company's mascot, Flash the cat, is still there; he serves as the official greeter, and doubles as a night watchman when everyone goes home at the end of the day.
Coast to Coast has retained its commitment to customer service. Gary said, "We hear horror stories from our customers all the time. They say, 'I needed a part, I had to order it from the distributor, the distributor had to get it from the manufacturer, and the whole process took two weeks, during which time my machine was down.' Or else a part broke in 100 days and the warranty was 90 days and the part was outrageously expensive.
"That situation with warranties has happened to us at our entertainment centers: we're 10 days out of warranty and the part is very expensive. So at Coast to Coast we make sure that when we're designing our equipment it won't have these problems. For example, since we're making the coin pushers in Asia and the cost of parts is less, we can afford to give a warranty that's longer than anybody selling anything in the United States."
Gary added, "We also try to use as many off-the-shelf parts as we can so the customer isn't married to us for life. For example, with a motor or power supply on a coin pusher, you usually have to go back to the manufacturer to buy both of those items. We have designed our machines with off-the-shelf motors from Grainger, which is all over the United States, and sells reasonably priced motors.
"In addition, the power supplies in our new coin pushers, which we're going to integrate into the design of all our new redemption equipment as it comes out, is a standard computer power supply that can be easily obtained at major electronics chain stores on a Friday or Saturday night. Or you can take one out of an old PC in the back you're not using, and it'll pop right into our game. We started doing this six to nine months ago."
Return on investment
The staff at Coast to Coast acknowledges that the industry is changing, becoming more of a challenge. "It's harder and harder to make money in this business," said John. "But our equipment offers our customers a great return on investment. Our crane machines sell for $1,495, and our coin pushers sell for under $10,000.
We understand what customers want because we listen to them." Gary and John know that licenses provide instant recognition with the public. "We are licensed to manufacture games with the following trademarks: Bozo the Clown. Betty Boop, and Popeye, with more to come," said John.
"Licensing has added tremendous value to our business. We are also proud of the wide variety of merchandise we offer, including licensed plush, inflatable basketballs, jewelry mixes, Stacker mixes, Gravity Hill items, and more."
Does John have any advice for FEC owners and operators? He replied, "I ask, 'Do you have a machine on location that is making $20 a week?' If they say yes, I suggest they put a crane machine in its place. Also, replace four to six of their worst earning machines with crane machines all in a row. They will be surprised at the revenue they can generate when the cranes are stocked with the right merchandise."
Knowing the equipment and the merchandise from both the operating side and the manufacturing side sets Coast to Coast apart. And Gary and John are willing to share their expertise and spend time with customers to explain how they can maximize their machines and select the proper merchandise.
Besides their own knowledge, Gary and John have young children, and they are keenly aware of what appeals to youngsters. John said, "My kids seem to know the hottest items on the market, so I listen to them. When my sons visit our arcades they always find and 'test' the newest machines. It's amusing, and affirming, that they find all the new games or merchandise that we had just put in."
As John is fond of saying, "Information is the key to business." At Coast to Coast that credo has been followed closely with positive results.
For more information about Coast to Coast, call (732)238-0096; Web (www.cranemachines.com).
FIRESTONE FINANCIAL & COAST TO COAST ENTERTAINMENT ANNOUNCE FINANCE OFFER
Newton, MA (Issued November 2006) Firestone Financial Corp. - a leader of equipment financing in the coin-op industry and Coast to Coast Entertainment, LLC- manufacturer of new and exciting crane machines and crane prizes, have created a 2-tiered finance promotion. This offer provides LOW interest rates and NO money down* on the following cranes: Toy Taxi, “Hot Stuff,” Dog Patrol, Bozo the Clown!**
The details of the promotion are as follows:
Rate: 7.75% APR
Term: 12 Months
Rate: 9.99% APR
Term: 24 Months
1st Payment Due: 30 Days
Unit Minimum: 3 Units
This offer expires December 31, 2006 so please act quickly!
Bozo's Big Prize Crane Machine
Coast to Coast Entertainment teamed up last week with Larry Harmon Pictures at the yearly Licensing Show at the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in New York City. Coast to Coast bowed its newly licensed Bozo the Clown crane called " Bozo's Big Prize " This new bright red crane was the hit of the show according to Marcy Breth , licensing director for Larry Harmon Pictures, people kept stopping by the booth to make comments on how great this machine looked.
The new machine features bright Bozo graphics as well as a complete sound package featuring Bozo talking and laughing to the players along with Bozo's famous theme song.
Coast to Coast Entertainments Gary Balaban announced that this is the first licensed crane for the amusement industry that has geared towards kids but has such a universal appeal. Everyone knows Bozo from 3 years old to 90 years old says Balaban. This is a great thing for our industry and it is only the beginning for Coast to Coast , we have lots of surprises in store for this upcoming year.
The new Bozo crane will begin shipping in September in both 31 inch and 38 inch size cabinets.
Call 1-800-224-1717 to order or see our web site at www.cranemachines.com
About Coast to Coast Entertainment LLC
We at Coast to Coast Entertainment LLC are committed to providing the very best in coin-operated entertainment. We offer a great line of crane machines in new and exciting syles as well as everything to go in them; from plush toys to jewlery to candy. We have a knowledgeable sales staff to help you choose the right machine for you and as well as many different payment options for purchase or lease.
Thanks - CoinopToday.com
SAYREVILLE, NJ — Establishing a successful
business that delivers value to equipment
owners in today’s demanding coin-op
industry need not be as difficult as it sounds.
At Coast to Coast Entertainment, two entrepreneurial
game operators have created such
a business model that serves the prize merchandising
Through serendipity, favorable currency
markets in Asia and good business sense,
Coast to Coast, headquartered here, has become
one of the fastest-growing companies
involved in the manufacture, development
and distribution of skill cranes.
Founded in 1999 by Gary Balaban and
John Maurer, who have been business partners
in arcade and route operations since
1985, Coast to Coast got its start when the
two operators were walking the floor of a
trade show for amusement parks and stumbled
on a modest exhibit of cranes from an
At the time, skill cranes, and prize-dispensing
games of all kinds, were on a rapid
ascent as sales leaders in “street” locations
and family entertainment centers. However,
new cranes, many of them fabricated
domestically with some electrical components
outsourced from Taiwan and China,
cost $3,000 on average. The cranes discovered
by Balaban and Maurer could potentially
be imported and marketed in the U.S.
for less than $2,000.
Balaban’s initial reaction was astonishment:
“We couldn’t believe we were the only
guys interested in these cranes at these
prices.” The overseas manufacturer was
looking for an importer and the two operators
agreed that the risk of introducing a
crane machine from Asia could pay off. Demand
for new cranes was growing in the U.S.
and there was an equally increasing need for
a low-cost, quality equipment line.
The overseas OEM’s initial machine design
offered several features never seen before
by the crane cohorts. “The electronics
were superior compared to anything we
were aware of,” said Balaban. Automatic
prize “percentaging” that is programmable
by a voltage meter built into the machine
was one of the innovations that caught their
interest, along with standard electronic
“The cranes had some undesirable features,
too, although minor,” the Coast to
Coast executive said. “The original model’s
cabinet construction was weaker than what
we were accustomed to in the U.S. and the
only color choice was pink. But these flaws
could be remedied without difficulty.”
Coast to Coast’s design modifications addressed
cabinet assembly and graphics, security,
electrical safety and language. The
metal cabinet’s frame was reinforced with
stronger materials, and hasps and grounding
points were incorporated. English voice
prompts and other audio properties replaced
native Chinese programming.
The first Coast to Coast model was called
Millennium 2000, which began shipping in
1999. Before the company put the new product
on the market, 50 pre-modified pink
pieces were brought into the country for a trial
run in a few arcades along the Jersey
Shore. Balaban placed 25 in his arcade, the
Game Room (Keansburg), and the other 25
in another arcade in Seaside Heights owned
by a friend. “They performed better than expected,”
he said, “and most of those first 50
test pieces are in operation today.”
Confident that the modified import from
Asia was as good as any other crane with
which American operators were familiar,
Coast to Coast put the Millennium on the
market for $1,995, almost a $1,000 less than
the most crane machines. Despite the low
price, sales initially were slow, recalled Balaban,
who points out that the stigma surrounding
goods made in Asia was widespread
in the U.S.
“It took us three years to establish real
credibility,” the Coast to Coast executive noted.
“To get started we had to lend product to
some operators in the Northeast who could
come to our plant, pick up machines and test
them in their locations to see how well they
worked.” The company initiated a dynamic
marketing campaign that targeted operators
at trade shows and through advertising.
As part of its image-building strategy, the
New Jersey crane company created an aggressive
service program that promised “a
crane will not be down for 24 hours,” providing
the customer placed a service call before
5:00 PM, Monday through Thursday,
allowing enough time to ship overnight any
parts needed to resolve a technical issue.
The company maintains a comprehensive
parts inventory – motors, claw parts, electronic
components, graphic materials and
cabinet hardware – to support its service
program. “We have more parts than we’ll
ever need,” Balaban said.
the Newsmonthly of Vending, Foodservice, Coffee Service and Coin-Operated Recreational Services Vol. 46, No. 5 • May 2006
Coast To Coast Advances
Crane Machine Category
CLAWS FOR CELEBRATION! Gary Balaban,
Coast to Coast Entertainment’s co-owner, shows
just how cushy the crane business can be. Last
year, the company established its own plush line
to complement booming machine sales.
As a result of its marketing efforts, Coast
to Coast’s Millennium was gaining footing
in the U.S. amusement market, and the company
introduced succeeding crane models
with improvements that stimulated even
more sales. They are the Challenger, Toy
Taxi, Hot Stuff, Prize Depot and Dog Patrol.
Today, an operator can purchase a new
Coast to Coast model for as low as $1,495,
thanks to downward pressures being applied
by growing competition and available inventory
needed to meet market demands.
When Balaban and Maurer came across
the overseas crane manufacturer, they also
stepped into a favorable business opportunity
afforded by the global currency market.
The dollar, while losing value against other
world currencies that float, was still strong
against Asian currencies. China’s yuan does
not yet float on the international currency
market. Many U.S. crane companies
sourced components from China or Taiwan
and fabricated cabinets domestically. Some
companies were importing higher-priced
machines from Europe. Importing the entire
machine from Asia, where manufacturing
costs are inexpensive, enabled Coast to
Coast to introduce a full-featured crane machine
line at reduced prices.
“I was not paying close attention to the
global currency market,” Balaban acknowledged,
“but I knew a good crane when I saw
one. All innovation is coming from Asia.”
In addition to onboard programmable
prize “percentaging” and electronic coin
mechs, Coast to Coast cranes feature dual
optical prize detection, microprocessor controls
and bill acceptors with optional stackers.
The all-metal cabinets are outfitted with
tempered safety glass, forward service panels,
recessed-rope lighting and big locking
wheels. These features provide added security
while maximizing appearance on location,
and give operators the ability to access
service areas with ease.
The company’s cranes can operate with
joystick or button controls, and in “play-until-
you-win” mode. Two cabinet formats are
offered: a standard single crane that measures
72 ins. high by 31 ins. wide by 35 ins.
deep. and a “jumbo” size that measures 41
ins. wide. The cabinet designs provide generous
product areas, which are easy to fill,
on all models; removable product platforms
are included on the 31-in. models.
Coast to Coast’s cranes, Balaban observed,
are continually improved to keep
players’ interest and to create new opportunities
for operators. Two years ago, for example,
the company enhanced the playing
experience with Double Play machines,
which offer two stages played in two prize
areas, “doubling” both the entertainment experience
and merchandising opportunity.
Double Play cranes allow patrons to play
for a plush toy prize initially, on one side of
the crane, and if unsuccessful, they can play
again with another claw on the other side of
the machine to win candy or small toy
prizes. The operator can program the extra
VENDING TIMES • Coast to Coast …2
WINNING TEAM: Pictured, from left, are Coast to Coast’s Kim Zubrycki, order fulfillment; Paul “Chuck” Skroczky, senior technical support manager;
Dan Maldomado, technical support; Carlos Colon, inside sales director; John Maurer, co-owner; Dave Maurer, warehouse manager; Beverly
Ruhman, executive assistant, with Flash the cat; Gary Eastmond, maintenance; Gary Balaban, co-owner; and John Paccione, Internet design
and development. Not pictured here is Jim Chapman, sales and marketing, who is based in Wisconsin. In all, Coast to Coast is staffed by
12 people. The company operates out of a 12,000-sq.ft. facility in Sayreville, NJ, that is adjacent to 1 million sq.ft. of additional warehouse space.
WINNING TECHNOLOGY: Coast to Coast
cranes are equipped with built-in voltage meters
for adjusting claw strength and programming
prize payouts. This automatic “percentaging”
function controls the amount of voltage in the
claw mechanism, ensuring that a win is possible
after a determined number of plays. Using
the meter to set a 15v.-48v. range, for instance,
the claw operates using the minimum voltage
setting for regular plays and increases to guarantee
the win percentage is met.
VENDING TIMES is designed as the forum to report trends in the vending and amusement services industries. Its content is targeted to operators working
in automatic vending, foodservice, coffee service, coin-operated entertainment and music, and bulk vending. Editorial highlights include coverage
of trade shows/events, new product reviews, relevant business news and analysis of new marketing/promotional techniques. VT is published monthly.
VENDING TIMES is based at 1375 Broadway, 6th Fl., New York, NY 10018; vendingtimes.com.
Published MAY 2006 © Copyright 2006 Vending Times Inc.
play feature for either single skill play or
continuous play until a prize is won, ensuring
that every customer walks away with a
prize. The Double Play concept, observed
the Coast to Coast executive, was designed
to increase the customer’s confidence in the
integrity of a crane by invalidating the perception
of the “fixed” crane by making sure
the player wins a prize every time. Likewise,
the entire crane line’s automatic “percentaging”
system guarantees a win after a predetermined
number of plays.
Building on the success of its crane machine
business, Coast to Coast has formed
partnerships with other manufacturers to
market and support redemption games, including
skill-stop amusements. The company
also launched a merchandise division, introducing
its own plush label last year. It is
also a contractor that designs and manufactures
cranes for other supply companies and
develops machine concepts for corporate
and chain locations.
Balaban reports that Coast to Coast is
having success with its new automatic
imaging equipment, which was developed
in-house. The first machine in the line,
called 3-2-1 Smile, rolled out last fall and
features a simple and rugged digital portrait
dispenser designed for deployment in
a very wide variety of locations. The upright
piece thermally renders images in
black and white.
Powered by a Dell computer, the 3-2-1-
Smile requires no ink cartridges, forming
its images on readily available paper. Consumable
cost is said to be less than 1˘ per
print, and a roll of paper yields 600 to 900
prints. Built around off-the-shelf technology
to maximize reliability and minimize
cost, it incorporates an LCD monitor, two
electronic coin mechanisms and a banknote
validator with stacker. It’s extensively
programmable, able to offer multiple
images and text captions (up to six
lines) on prints. A multiple-price feature
allows for promotional pricing.
“We made the photo machine with the
idea that it would be primarily a promotional
tool for locations,” Balaban explained,
“because the machine has editable lines. But
it has become an amusement attraction in its
own right.” Coast to Coast has begun its second
production run of 3-2-1 Smile and is developing
a second coin-op imaging model
based on similar technology.
Also new is the Bozo the Clown crane,
which is being developed in a partnership between
Coast to Coast and Larry Harmon
Productions Inc. A prototype will be unveiled
in June at Licensing International in
New York City at the Larry Harmon exhibit.
“This is Coast to Coast’s first licensed
product,” Balaban said, “and it has worldwide
recognition.” The Bozo crane will officially
roll out in September during the
Amusement and Music Operators Association
International Expo in Las Vegas.
LICENSE TO SKILL: Coast to Coast co-owners, John Maurer (left) and Gary Balaban, are
developing the company’s first licensed product. In partnership with Larry Harmon Productions,
a Bozo the Clown skill crane debuts next month at Licensing International (June 20-22)
in New York City. Its official rollout will be in September during the Amusement and Music Operators
Association International Expo in Las Vegas.
VENDING TIMES • Coast to Coast …3
COAST TO COAST’S
The Accidental Manufacturer
Operator-Turned-Factory Coast to Coast Entertainment Gives Good Quality
at a Value Price
Like many a great notion, the idea of becoming an equipment supplier to U.S. operators struck the founders of New Jersey-based Coast to Coast Entertainment while they were pursuing their day job: running their own
It was 1998, and Coast to Coast founders Gary Balaban and John Maurer were walking the aisles of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions show in Dallas when they stumbled upon a Chinese crane manufacturer that was looking for sales representation in the U.S.
"We said this is better than anything in the market at half the price," recalled Balaban. "So we bought a container, brought them over and tested the units in our own arcades. It performed really well."
Simple as that, they were in the equipment supply business. Later, in a similarly straightforward manner, they started a prize supply business to help out their crane customers. And more recently, they launched a product
development effort that has resulted in their innovative 3-2-1 Smile photo booth, which makes it cost effective to vend an image (or set of images)for as little as a quarter and still make money.
Looking back, Balaban says his background in running a route and game room was invaluable. "Being an operator, I knew that a lot of equipment was really priced out of reach," he furthered. "You had to wait
for something used. When we found this crane, I knew that we could offer many small operators a chance to buy new equipment with lots of new features."
For the better part of three years, Coast to Coast says it had the field to itself, offering a value priced import crane to the U.S. trade. In recent years, the market has grown, and the field is now crowded with affordably-priced
imported crane games.
"Sure, it was a natural progression from operating to bringing new products to other operators to full fledged product development," explained Balaban. "In any industry, you can succeed if you bring a product to market at a fair price. I don't care if that industry is going up or down. But it has to be a quality product at a value as opposed to just a cheap
That philosophy may sound straight out of Business 101. But it works, and Balaban and Maurer know it from their experience both in the amusement industry and the equally competitive computer industry. In 1994, they started
a company that markets computer memory, a low-margin commodity business in which they have nonetheless thrived, namely by applying these same principles.
"Not too bad for a guy who didn't go to business school," noted Balaban slyly. "We don't have to be a big fat company, making huge profits, with everybody driving a Lexus. We are just working guys bringing a good product to the industry."
Gary Balaban said he has been hanging around arcades since he was a kid growing up in central New Jersey, spending all his paper route money playing pinball and video games. Later, he nabbed a job fixing games and collecting money for a local operator.
When he was 18, Balaban started his own route, operating games in convenience stores, pizza joints and, interestingly, fraternity houses, a venue that helped start the career of another well known Jersey trade figure, Frank Seninsky.
"We used to take older equipment and put them in frat houses," recalled Balaban. "But that business went away when the early console systems arrived."
During his own college years, Balaban met his partner John Maurer, who helped him grow the route business, expanding into a wide range of unique locations including campgrounds and even flea markets. "I always had
a passion for games so I was really lucky when I fell into making a career out of this industry."
In 1987, the two bought an arcade in Keansburg, N.J., half an hour south of New York. The game room, geared toward the 10 and under crowd, is one of three at a small outdoor seasonal amusement park. The pair recently bought
a second location, giving them two of the three arcades on the property.
In the intervening years between college and the company they have today, Gary and John remained partners, with the former keeping his attention focused full-time on the amusement biz and John pursuing other careers while also keeping his hand in coin-op. Through this period, Maurer worked in manufacturing and engineering for a company called Integrated Ionics and then later managed
a computer network for
M & M Mars. The two also started the aforementioned computer memory sales firm.
"We never left the industry because we always had the arcade," said Maurer. "We just never realized that we could make a living selling new equipment."
When Coast to Coast was formed to start selling cranes, and later prizes, to other operators, John came aboard full time. In fact, Gary and John split that first container of cranes with another friend's location along the Jersey shore.
"To this day, every one of those cranes is still on location in my friend's arcade, and they have never had to order parts," said Gary.
Building on Early Success
That original container of cranes, purchased sight unseen by Balaban and Maurer, has snowballed into a mini amusement game empire for Coast to Coast as they have expanded into other products and services.
Today, Balaban and his partner find themselves doing increasing crane business, establishing a strong working relationship with their Chinese manufacturing partner. "We were dealing with them three or four years
before we went over and saw the factory," said Balaban, whose firm oversaw the revamping of the initial crane product to produce a new line with different colors and graphics in 2003. "Even early on, we made
a bunch of changes to get the machines made for the U.S. including beefing up construction and security issues. We have also been diligent when it comes to service issues. As operators, we know the machines need to be easy
to work on."
This diligence has helped spark what can only be called a comeback for the skill crane, especially with smaller operators who have been able to get on the bandwagon with new equipment that they can afford.
"Maybe it was the time for cranes to come back," said Balaban. "I would attribute some of that to the fact that you have a product that costs half as much as the units in the late 1980s, and the technology
is much better."
Getting into prizes was, of course, a logical extension for the company, particularly with customers just joining the merchandise revolution. "It was a natural," elaborated Balaban. "A lot of our customers were
people who were never in the crane business before. They didn't have old school prize contacts."
In developing their prize supply business, which they refer to as a "growing part" of Coast to Coast's overall revenue, Balaban and Maurer tapped into their contacts as operators. They also hit the tradeshow circuit and developed partnerships with multiple suppliers, all U.S. wholesalers of goods being brought in from the East. "Our suppliers have really helped us out, and the quality of our product has improved dramatically,"
said Balaban. "It's bigger, nicer and cheaper."
By some standards, Coast to Coast Entertainment is still a fairly small company, running a lean operation with 15 staffers working out of 15,000 square feet, where they take delivery, oversee final assembly and head up
quality control of their imported product. They are also hosting R & D and assembly of their in-house product like the 3-2-1 Smile photo booth, handling pre-pack mixing for their prize customers and evaluating new sample
machines. Needless to say, it's quite a busy place.
Cranes, Cameras and More
Coast to Coast Entertainment's signature product line remains their cranes including the recently introduced Toy Taxi jumbo model. Features of this crane include all metal construction, electronic coin mechs, available dollar
bill acceptor and adjustable claw with a meter.
Earlier this year, they also introduced their own 3-2-1 Smile photo booth, which was largely designed by Balaban and Maurer. "That's my baby," Maurer said brightly of the computer-based attraction.
The 3-2-1 Smile booth, which uses universally available print media, offers photos at less than a penny a print to the operator. The finished product can include as many as nine pictures, and each roll of paper holds up to 900 prints. There are no ink cartridges to replace, and vends can be customized with jokes, fortunes, lottery numbers, etc. Factory execs said the idea behind the unit is to offer a vended photo for as low as a quarter and still turn a profit.
"Our whole concept is to build something that generates a good ROI for our customers," said Maurer of the development process. "We don't build a machine, test it to see what it will make and then attempt
to charge some multiple of those earnings. We don't make outlandish promises about how soon it will pay itself off. We simply build it as inexpensively as possible, add a reasonable markup for our efforts and sell the same."
This past summer, Coast to Coast also announced a new sales and marketing partnership with Family Fun Co., the Chicago area game design firm headed up by FEC operator, redemption pioneer and game designer Richard Oltmann,
whose portfolio of family entertainment centers includes the well known Enchanted Castle just outside Chicago. Coast to Coast sales pro Jim Chapman, a longtime industry veteran, is credited by Balaban for bringing the two
Coast to Coast will be selling Family Fun Co.'s entire line of popular ticket games (and spares) including King's Castle, Gorilla King, Hungry Dragon and Single Dip. Oltmann reportedly has a number of other projects
in the works such as a new three-player quick coin piece that Coast to Coast will likely debut before the year's end.
Both Coast to Coast Entertainment and Family Fun Co. are homegrown manufacturing companies that started out as operators and delved into the development of new products out of necessity and vision. Balaban said the companies'
similarities and strengths are already shining through to make a strong and profitable partnership.
"The ideas and the games that Richard has developed and the ones that he is working on are so amazing," concluded Maurer. "He builds
games with the operator in mind. Some manufacturers have really lost touch, but in Richard's games there are all these little tiny things that make life easier for the operator. I think the relationship is going to flourish."
Looking ahead, both Balaban and Maurer say they will continue to focus on creating games with a price tag that offers operators a chance to generate a respectable return on their investment.
"Self redemption is where this market is heading," noted Maurer.
"Competition in ticket redemption, plus an already crowded market, makes it tough to generate ROI because everything is so much alike."
Balaban predicts the company will pursue more in-house products, always with an eye to containing development costs. "We like to price ourselves in the affordable range so whatever we get our hands on will be something
that the operator can really make money on," he said.
Coast to Coast will be exhibiting this month at the 2005 IAAPA show in Atlanta, where they get a chance to meet with domestic and international customers, particularly those from Central and South America. For more information or distributor referral contact Coast to Coast at 800/224-1717; website
To send email to RePlay Magazine, it's firstname.lastname@example.org Write or call RePlay Magazine at:P.O. Box 7004, Tarzana, CA 91357
(shipping address is 18757 Burbank Blvd. #105 Tarzana, CA 91356)
Phone: 818/776-2880; Fax: 818-776-2888
© All contents of this page and the entire RePlay Magazine
website at http://www.replaymag.com and http://www.replaymagazine.com Copyright
2005 RePlay Magazine. All rights reserved.
Back to Current Issue Index