|By Paul Catala
Walk down the stairs at this house and get ready for action.
On the first floor of their home in New Port Richey, Larry and Charlene Santangelo have set aside 1,900 square feet as their own rockabilly juke joint.
Among the furniture circa 1950s, a faux antique jukebox blares the era's big hits on compact disc. Nearby, friends and family can save their quarters and play the Joker 2 and Combat Girl pinball machines tilt-free.
"I have a large ex- tended family. Everyone comes over ready to play," says Larry, 36. "It's a happy room. If you're not happy there, we kick you out."
The Santangelos aren't the only family who've decided to allot living space for this type of fun space, either.
Around Tampa Bay, Florida and the United States, more families are turning living and family rooms into per- sonalized game and recreation rooms.
Catering to the popularity of such rooms locally, Game Gallery Amusements and Rentals last fall opened a showroom at its amusement and vending business store and warehouse in Tampa.
Gallery President Andy Kline said his sales for home games have doubled in the last three years and so has his inventory.
Kline said he and other dealers nationally attribute such increases to members of the baby boom generation, now in their 30s and 40s, wanting to play games they played in arcades when they were young. With changes in today's commercial outlets, these people needed places to put these games - and a place to buy them.
- Position: President, Game Gallery Amusements and Rentals, 7941 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa
- Business: Sales, rentals and service of new and antique amusement machines.
"We'd been selling to the (commercial) gameroom and bar market," Kline said in a recent interview. "We thought, 'Now's the time to get into the home market.'
"Every day, customers come by and say they've been looking for a place to buy games like this but didn't know where."
INSIDE Game Gallery Amusements and Rentals's 2,000- square-foot showroom, customers can choose from jukeboxes, slot machines, pool tables, pinball machines, video games, foosball ta- bles, air hockey tables and electronic dart machines.
Many of the machines being sold are an- tiques or new equipment made to look like older games. Kline said he regularly attends vending equipment auctions to buy collect- ibles and newer games that are used for rentals at parties.
"A lot of executives like to rent them for business parties," said Kline, who also is president of the gallery's parent company, A.S.K. Distributors, Inc. "They'll rent 20 or 30 machines for parties. We did four parties for the Super Bowl."
All of Game Gallery Amusements and Rentals's equipment is cleaned, reconditioned and offered with a 30- day warranty, Kline said.
To make machine service more conve- nient, he also opened a service center at Game Gallery Amusements and Rentals. There are few places to take amusement games for repairs, so he figured the space could be used to service his own machines and those from other businesses.
| Harry Farr, Game Gallery Amusements and Rentals's service manager, said he has his own way to mea- sure steady growth in the home gameroom business in the last two years.
These days, Farr said, the increased pop- ularity has caused him to be "on call" seven days a week. With two other technicians, he specializes in fixing older equipment at homes in Hillsborough and Pinellas. "We're selling more and more to the pub- lic," Farr said. "We're seeing a steady in- crease in home sales and we're getting more house calls. Depending on the age of the equipment, we'll tell you if it's worth fixing."
AMID THE latest electronic games in Game Gallery Amusements and Rentals's show- room, antique and older machines, such as a 1931 Jennings slot ma- chine, wait for owners. Slot machines must be at least 20 years old to sell legally for home use, Kline said.
Most of his home sales remain with newer machines, at least technologically.
"People want the new machines to look old. People like the antique look," Kline said. Originally from Hollywood, Kline said his venture into amusement game sales started in 1975 when he bought four video games, struck deals to put them into bars around Tampa and serviced them.
Through the late 1980s, he continued his service route and, in 1991, opened a ware- house in south Tampa. He opened the show- room in October.
Four full-time employees - Farr, Char- lene Santos,Jackie Ciliverto and Mark Trio - keep the games blinking as the company moves to expand sales beyond its local base.
"There's no reason to set a roof on other locations," he said. "People everywhere want to play."