Arcade owner is not ready to say game over

A friend of the Machine Shop in Langley is asking for help to keep its doors open.

A South Whidbey business owner who has followed the governor’s mandate to stay closed during the pandemic is asking for the community’s help to keep from folding.

Tim Leonard owns the Machine Shop, an arcade in Langley. Its colorful neon signs and location on the corner of Second Street and De Bruyn Avenue make it one of the first landmarks seen when entering the Village by the Sea from the west.

Since 2016, the arcade has been a vibrant place of entertainment. Rock bands have performed on the premises and many games have been played on the antique pinball machines.

But these days, the machines are quiet and the only ones allowed inside the arcade are the life-size skeleton figures.

Leonard’s friend, Deven Gates, recently started a GoFundMe page to raise money covering the expense of renting the building, paying for utilities and insurance, estimating the costs at around $3,333 per month.

“This business already operated at a thin margin in order to make The Machine Shop affordable and accessible for all,” Gates wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Without intervention from the public, we could lose this Whidbey institution.”

Leonard said he has no plans currently to permanently close the Machine Shop, but that another six months of being closed because of the pandemic will be rough going.

He is hoping people choose to donate in order to see the popular arcade “through the storm.”

The fundraiser was Gates’ idea, who is a fan of the place.

“Where else can you ride a motorcycle, fly a Podracer, shoot some Space Invaders, gobble up some ghosts and whack a steel ball around?” Gates wrote about the Machine Shop on the GoFundMe page.

For Leonard, the experience has been about humbling himself to the cause and learning to accept help from the community.

“I kind of had to swallow my pride a bit,” Leonard said.

He did receive a small grant earlier in the year, but said it was not nearly enough to cover all the expenses of the business.

As of Friday morning, the fundraiser had netted $8,429. The goal is to reach $20,000.

Donors have the opportunity to be memorialized on a pinball machine flipper, which will be etched with their name and placed on a display wall in the Machine Shop.

Several donors have left comments on the fundraiser’s web page, swapping sentiments about the beloved arcade.

“I always enjoy visiting The Machine Shop when I’m on the island and always wish it had been around when I was growing up there,” Erin Hilton wrote. “The island needs more places like it, not less.”

“A community is woven of connections between people,” Matthew Simms wrote.

“Places like the Machine Shop bring people together so they can connect. And when people connect and the community is woven, good things happen.”

To contribute to the Machine Shop, go

Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News-Times
Tim Leonard plays a round of pinball with a skeletal friend in the Machine Shop.

Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News-Times Tim Leonard plays a round of pinball with a skeletal friend in the Machine Shop.