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After his father died in 2015, Erik Golinowski was left to tend the store. It was a difficult transition, but The Only Game in Town is moving ahead. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The Only Game in Town will have been in North Haven for 32 years this year, and has been the Golinowski family business since 2008, when Olek Golinowski took over the business. Following Olek’s sudden passing in 2015, his son, Erik Golinowski, is now working to maintain his dad’s legacy while putting his own stamp on the local institution.
“My dad was an entrepreneur,” Erik says. “He saw the opportunity and he went after it. He put a lot of money into the place.
“I always worked for my father growing up,” he says. “He was hard on me and that’s why I think I’m a real hard worker. He wanted everything done correctly.”
When Olek died unexpectedly on June 28, 2015, everything came to a halt.
“He died and I got thrown into it three days later,” Erik says. “It was super, super hard in the beginning.”
Erik says he had problems with theft of accounts and property during the early days. Meanwhile, he was having to sell off equipment for the estate.
“That summer dragged on really, really long,” he says.
The business was helped along by good summer weather. Business, at least, was strong, though there were some unexpected challenges.
“I think I have a problem with my business in particular because a lot of people thought it closed, a lot of people still think it’s closed,” Erik says.
Another challenge is keeping up with the times. The business of family sports entertainment, Erik says, is always changing.
“From when the place opened in 1987 to now, it’s completely different, in my opinion,” he says.
He’s always looking for new attractions. Currently, the facility offers a golf driving range, an arcade, go-karting, and indoor and outdoor mini golf courses.
“A lot of kids, like teenagers, don’t do what I have anymore,” he says of a generation more likely to take their gaming online. “It’s not a hit anymore like I’m sure it was when my parents were younger.”
More and more, Erik has found that his demographic is younger kids and young adults going on dates. The teenage crowd that, years ago, supported the business, has moved on.
“After high school, people used to go to The Only Game in Town to play arcade, now there’s video games,” he says.
The arcade itself presents a challenge to bring in the new. The games at the arcade are rented, so Erik says it’s a constant battle to get the units refreshed by new ones.
Plus, there’s weather to contend with. With most of the business taking place outside, a summer season can be ruined by rain. Until this year, the building was not heated. Now, The Only Game in Town is open year-round, allowing the arcade and mini golf to provide some business.
The blacklight mini golf course was Olek’s idea. The entire course is indoor and glow-in-the-dark. Erik says there are a lot more trick shots than the traditional mini golf course outside.
“We call it thriller mini golf,” Erik says. “It’s got big animatronics. It lights up….It’s does well on rainy days.”
But there’s always more to come.
“I plan to add laser tag or some sort of thing. I’m constantly going to auctions to see what I can buy,” Erik says. “Stuff in the business is insanely expensive.”
A brand new laser tag game from a U.S.-based company, he says, could cost $250,000 brand new, so Erik goes to shows and auctions where he can find equipment from other vendors where the price is better.
But it’s a matter of what he can find. Often laser tag equipment is sold as an entire system including the vests, guns, sounds, and the arena, making it expensive and difficult to transport.
“I found one, I wanted to buy it very badly, but it was seven hours away,” he says. “Imagine transporting a 1,000 square foot facility.”
Erik is also looking at adding a virtual reality game, which he says is becoming popular in the industry or a play area for younger kids. A lot of his ideas for the facility, he says, come from what he was interested in as a kid.
“I look at other facilities, I go online, I go to shows and see what other people are doing...correctly,” Erik says. “I’ve just got to do things within my means.”
To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.
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