BAY CITY (WJRT) - (06/29/16) - It's a building in Bay City that for more than 70 years has been the place where many of our favorite arcade and bar-style games have come to life.
Everything from foosball to pool, even air hockey - they're all Made in Michigan.
Mark Robbins knows his way around an air hockey table - he happens to be a two-time world champion.
"A lot of people will say, ‘They have a world championship for that?’ Others will say, ‘Wow. That's pretty cool. Can I play you a game?’” Robbins said.
Robbins doesn't just play air hockey - his company, Gold Standard Games, makes air hockey tables out of a Bay City manufacturing plant.
"All of our commercial grade tables are sanctioned by the US Air Hockey Association, which means they meet the highest standards for the best players,” Robbins said.
Each table takes around 13 hours to make. Last year, Gold Standard produced and shipped out more than 300 of them, some coin-operated, others designed for at-home use.
"Europe, a little bit into South America, Mexico, Canada. I know we're negotiating with a buyer from Russia and another from India,” Robbins said.
Gold Standard tables sell for anywhere between $1,500 and $5,000. That price includes the science behind the game.
"You have to have good airflow and all that costs money to create that system that will give you that commercial grade airflow,” Robbins said.
Gold Standard is one of only three or four U.S.-based air hockey table manufacturers. The company also makes foosball and pool tables, along with electronic dart boards and dome hockey.
"People are looking for something that can get them off their phones, computers and tablets. It's actually in the real world, physical. So we specialize in those kind of games,” Robbins said.
Game manufacturing in Gold Standard's Bay City facility actually stretches all the way back to 1945. At that time, it was home of the Valley Company, which eventually chose to move out of Michigan.
"It was devastating to the employees. We had a lot of employees with it not only being their livelihood, but they were dedicated,” said Mike Pettis, plant manager for Gold Standard Games.
That wasn't the end of game manufacturing in Bay City, though; it lead to the birth of Shelti Games.
"Some of the original employees who worked here then said, ‘Hey, we can do as good of a job, if not better, and get the business going again,” Pettis said.
Robbins bought Shelti in 2010, re-branding it as Gold Standard. With 16 employees now on board, he's all about maintaining Bay City's game-making legacy.
"We do have people from the ‘80s and maybe the ‘70s and some of that heritage which has continued on, which is one of the things that attracted me to the company. I knew that they could build quality products,” Robbins said.
While it might be more cost-effective to manufacture his games overseas, Robbins says ‘no way.’ He's loyal to the Mitten.
"Michigan is pretty open to business. There's a tradition here and with suppliers that have a lot of knowledge, and because of the way that the auto industry went, there's a lot of talent out there that should be utilized more,” he said.
As sales continue to increase, Gold Standard Games hopes to add more jobs.
For more information on their products, click the link in the ‘Related Links’ section of this story.