WARREN, MI -- With the election of John Pascaretti as Amusement and Music Operators Association president, the 65-year-old trade organization gains a leader with exceptional experience and knowledge of the coin-operated amusement industry. Pascaretti, who heads Michigan’s Pascaretti Enterprises, comes to the job with decades of experience as both an operator and a distributor.
He entered the coin-op business right out of college. Facing a bleak job market and few career prospects, he went to work for a company run by a relative who was established in the industry. At the time, his uncle’s partner in the amusement operation was killed in a car accident.
“I was living at home and my father suggested I give him a hand,” Pascaretti recalled, “which meant ‘get your ass out of the house.’ So I started working with him; I was mechanically minded, and this was helpful. So I worked with him on and off, in between jobs at Ralston Purina, Kmart and Dayton Hudson.”
It did not take long for Pascaretti to become captivated by route operations. He began by counting coins on location with his uncle in 1975, a few years before the industry transitioned from electromechanical pinballs to videogames. Today, the AMOA president still prefers to use the two-finger stack-and-wrap technique.
In 1982, Pascaretti joined the industry full-time on the distribution side by accepting a position with Rowe in Detroit. “I was repairing jukeboxes, and Rowe had a distribution sales office,” he said. “So, I ended up working at that office as a salesman and branch manager.”
By 1986, he had launched his own distributorship, Wolverine American Inc., which became well known in the region during its more than two decades in business. The company was seriously damaged by the credit crisis in 2008 and closed two years later. Pascaretti was able to retain jukebox lines, which include Rowe, made by AMI Entertainment, and some amusement and vending lines for his new venture. Pascaretti Enterprises is headquartered in Warren, MI, and has a branch office in Grand Rapids. It serves a customer base that extends into Ohio and Indiana.
“One of the things I believe I bring to the job is a wide overview of the whole industry, from manufacturer through distributor to operator,” he said. “Even at the location level, I’ve spent a lot of time in the field with my customers. I have a good understanding of all facets of the industry.”
Pascaretti is not breaking new ground as a distributor elected president of the association. Although AMOA is identified primarily as an operators’ organization, its membership includes distributors and suppliers, and some have held high office. For example, Bob Nims of Lucky Coin Machine Co. and AMA Distributors, an operation and dealership based in Metairie, LA, was among distributors who attained the AMOA presidency. These officials were also involved in operations at the time of their terms, while the coin machine veteran from Michigan is solely involved in distribution (a notable distinction for industry members).
Evolution Is Essential
Pascaretti foresees continued transformation for the music and games industry. “The business is changing. The bar business is changing. And our customers are changing, in terms of what they like to do,” he explained. “I think it’s safe to say, whatever we’re doing today, in five years we’re going to be doing something else. All businesses have to look to see where they can find new opportunities, which is one of the good reasons for someone to attend the Amusement Expo and join AMOA.”
One attribute he cites as especially crucial to operator survival is the ability to adopt new equipment types. “The strength of the operator is that he has been resilient and adapted to the changes,” Pascaretti explained. “A current example is that, in the last five years, I’ve seen operators enter the ATM business to replace revenue lost on the amusement side.”
Being from Michigan, Pascaretti understands adversity and recovery, and he says there are signals from the “streets” across the country that suggest the industry is improving.
According to Pascaretti, it is by navigating through and adapting to a rapidly changing industry and entertainment market that the AMOA has proven itself a valuable resource for operators. He observed that the durable Notre Dame program is a highly regarded member benefit. “All an operator has to do is talk to anyone who has attended to realize what a valuable resource it is,” he said. AMOA also builds good will for the industry, the president-elect noted, instancing AMOA and AAMA’s leadership in raising funds to aid the victims of Superstorm Sandy, contributing some $77,000 to the Red Cross.
Pascaretti predicts that the association will continue its evolution to better serve its operator members. For instance, this year the organization reduced the size of its board to reflect current industry reality.
“One of the big things we have to do is shore up our membership,” the industry veteran emphasized. “A lot of people in the industry are not members. Communicating with our members and nonmembers alike about what we’re doing right – and what they want to see change – is an ongoing process.
“The one thing I want nonmembers to know is that they are missing out,” Pascaretti summed up. “A lot of this revolves around the annual convention and trade show; the AMOA has been a beacon of light. It’s important to get together with other industry members and discuss how to make things better, rather than just sitting around and complaining.”
John Pascaretti took the helm, succeeding Andy Shaffer of Shaffer Services (Columbus, OH), at the conclusion of Amusement Expo on March 22. The 2013-14 principal officers representing AMOA’s volunteer leadership positions also include first vice-president Bobby Hogin, Hogin Amusement Co., (Dickson, TN); treasurer Jerry Johnston, Amusement Unlimited Inc. (Eugene, OR); and secretary Gaines Butler, Metro Distributors Inc. (Norcross, GA). AMOA’s class of 2016 vice-presidents also started. They are Marty Murin, Rainbow Falls Video Service Corp. (Tannersville, NY); Tony Paszkiewicz, Columbia Amusements Inc. (Baltimore); and Greg Trent, Beyer & Brown (South Daytona, FL). Outgoing AMOA leaders acknowledged for their service were past-president Lloyd Williamson and vice-president Phil Juckem, along with directors Bruce Duncan, Larry Elbert, Larry Hilimire, Dale Lazar and Denis Smith.