Bryan Kelly first came to public prominence with his invention of the world-famous Pin Footies carpet protectors for pinball machines.

Since then Bryan has moved into pinball restoration and refurbishment, turning out top-quality machines with an eye for detail and an insistence on perfection. He also offers up his pearls of wisdom to listeners of the Spooky Pinball podcast.

Interview by John Greatwich

Bryan Kelly

Name: Bryan Kelly

Electrical contractor, founder of Pin Footie Enterprises and pinball restorer, based in Farmington, Minnesota.

Age: 58

When did you first play pinball?
I never really played pinball much. Maybe in the mid '70s when I was in college. Rather than playing, I enjoy the mechanics of a pinball machine. I’d rather tear one apart and rebuild it than play it.

Where are your favorite places to play pinball?
Mostly friends homes, and my own.

What types of pinball machines do you own (EM, solid-state, DMD)?
I’m pretty much a DMD kind of guy.

How many do you own now, and what are some of your favorites?
I’ve got seventeen in total. I’ve got ten at home, but only because that’s all I have room for. I also have seven at my daughter’s house. My son-in-law loves playing. Some of those will be going to my son’s house once he gets one big enough for a gameroom. He loves playing also.

Do you still have any local commercial locations to play pinball?
We do.

Are there any restrictions on operating or playing pinball in your area?
None that I know of.

Which shows do you attend?
The Midwest Gaming Classic and Pinball Expo are my regulars. I’ve also attended the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown a number of times.

We are seeing more pinball machines being developed by small companies other than Stern Pinball. What is your opinion on this new interest in the game?
I think it’s great. I just hope they don’t look like they were made in someone’s garage.

Where would you like to see the pinball machine technology go in the future?
I’ll leave that up to those who actually play these things.

Do you like mods for pinball machines?
In general, no. I’m more of a purist.

How do you like new lighting technology?
I like it, although games like The Wizard of Oz can be a bit overwhelming. It certainly makes the older games a bit dull-looking, though.

What do you think the cost per play of new pins should be?
I don’t really care.

What annoys you the most about pinball on location?
Condition and playability of the games would be tops.

How can we get more new people interested in playing pinball?
Media attention would be the biggest help.

Do you think we need to return to simpler and easier to understand pinballs?
Because I suck as a player, yes. But that doesn’t help the better players. You need rules that keep all players happy.

How do you think pinball manufacturers can make a more playable and friendly game?
It’d be cool if a game dispensed hot cheese nachos and cold beer.

How annoyed do you get with missing balls or hang-ups on games?
I’ve never really had it be an issue.

Do you think pinball manufacturers should get smart and kick out another ball quickly if there is a ball missing or not scoring?
Um, I guess so.

How do you rank yourself as a player, and do you play in tournaments?
I play way better than my friends who don’t play, and I suck compared to the ones who do play.

The cost of new pinball ownership has increased greatly over the last few years. Does this stop you from buying new machines?
No, but I’m sure there are many who are now priced out of the market, at least for new games.

With the introduction of new technology, do you think pinball machines have become easier to service and more reliable?
Nope. A pinball machine was made to break down.

Pinballs machines are heavy objects to move around. Do you think they need to be lighter?
What the **** kind of question is that, John? I’m 58-years-old. Of course I’d like them lighter!

How do you like the warranty offered for new pinball machines and parts?
It’s cool.

Does traditional mechanical pinball need more radical changes?
Sure. Why not.

Tell us a little about your work.
For those who don’t know me, I’m an electrical contractor in real life but I’ve been restoring pinball machines for about fifteen years on the side. I’ve probably done somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred of them.

I also make these silly wood coasters called Pin Footies.  They keep the legs of your pins from digging into your carpet and leaving deep, ugly holes.  You can find them at Pinball Life, Bay Area Amusements and Marco Specialties.

Any insights into new products coming soon?
I’m currently working on reproduction of playfield plastics. If this first set goes well, I may be doing more. I may also have a surprise for this year’s MGC. I can’t say what it is just yet. Hopefully I'll have it done in time.

How do you promote your products?
Almost all of my restoration work has come from word of mouth, so I’ve never had a need for a website. That may change if some of my new ideas take off.

Thanks for your time Bryan.

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