Steve Epstein – owner/operator of the legendary Broadway Arcade in New York City and pioneer of competitive pinball and player ranking systems has died following a battle against cancer.
Steve R. Epstein – 1948-2020
A remembrance by M.G. Brown
Steve ‘Zelmo’ Epstein, the owner of New York City’s famed Broadway Arcade passed away surrounded by family on Saturday, June 13th 2020. Steve was 71 years young.
Broadway Arcade was a hub of New York City coin-op gaming and the birthplace of PAPA (Professional and Amateur Pinball Association) as well as the IFPA (International Flipper Pinball Association).
Steve is credited with popularizing the concept of pinball leagues and tournaments, which he hosted as far back as the early 1980s.
Broadway Arcade had a good number of famous customers over the years including Roger C. Sharpe, the “Man Who Saved Pinball”, and it was the location of Velvet Underground rocker, Lou Reed’s, wedding reception.
Broadway Arcade closed its doors in 1997, a victim of being evicted by their landlord so that a neighboring business could expand, and zoning laws that are not favorable to arcade (coin-op) businesses.
Broadway Arcade had a reputation for getting all or most of the new pinball games as soon as they were released and had hard to ﬁnd games such as Big Bang Bar.
Steve Epstein re-entered the electronic gaming business in 2013 at 362 Third Avenue with Modern Pinball NYC.
To quote an anonymous Pinside forum user at the time of the new location’s announcement; “… if THAT guy is getting back into the arcade business, you KNOW pinball is back in a big way.”
To skirt the egregious zoning regulations in New York City, Modern Pinball NYC was billed as a “sales and interactive showroom”. Mr. Epstein partnered in the venture with Steve Zahler, an international champion pinball player.
The new venture was a part electronic gaming sales, part museum, and part pay-and-play-by-the-hour gaming center as some former arcades have become to side-step ‘coin-operated’ game regulations.
Shortly after opening, Modern Pinball NYC was featured on NBC-TV’s Today show, Fox News, CNN, and with a ‘lifestyle’ article in The Wall Street Journal.
Steve Epstein was a frequent speaker at pinball shows such as Pinball Expo in Chicago where he would speak about starting and maintaining an entertainment business in the ‘Post-Arcade’ environment.
Steve’s life revolved around two balls – one silver and one dimpled white. He spent endless hours enjoying pinball and golf – both enthusiastically described in countless stories when he’s had “the game of his life.”
In lieu of a funeral, the family will be waiting until it’s safe for people to gather for a party in celebration of Steve’s life. Online condolences can be made in Steve’s honor to Project Pinball at http://www.projectpinball.org.
Finally, you can hear Steve talking with Roger Sharpe about their adventures in pinball together, how the Broadway Arcade becoming a test location opened many door to the pinball industry for him, and what it was about pinball that so attracted him to the game in the first place in this audio recording from Pinball Expo in 2014.