What’s your pinball story?
Everyone has one, according to Mark Carvey, the co-owner of the newest themed bar in downtown Westerly, and if you don’t, now’s your chance to start discovering it! Located right across the street from the train station, Flip Side opened last November and business has been steady, which is remarkable given that we’re in the thick of the snowy slow season. Co-owner, and Mark’s wife, Dana attributes part of their success so far to the steady foot traffic Westerly enjoys now as part of the newly thriving downtown scene and plethora of fun specialty bars to check out.
“Everybody’s got ‘a thing’ down here,” Dana said on a snowy Sunday afternoon, and referred to Misquamicut, Watch Hill, and downtown Westerly as “a triangle of fun, with more stuff to do than ever before.” Mark agreed, adding that “niche bars are a fad, but pinball has been around for a century and thriving for generations, and it’s only getting bigger.”
Familiar with the area through friends and their own adventures in barhopping through the newly thriving downtown scene, Mark and Dana knew that Westerly was the place they wanted to set up shop in. “It’s just a great town,” Mark said, and went on to explain that while maybe no one was crying out specifically for a pinball bar here, they knew that it would be a great fit and if they carved out a spot for gamers, a vibrant and welcoming community would grow in that space.
Personal collectors of pinball machines for five years and counting, Dana and Mark currently own 35 different machines and keep 9 in the bar for all to enjoy, and plan to rotate in a new game every month or so to keep things fresh. Never played before? That’s no problem – Dana says they love to help teach newbies how to play.
Worried about a long line to get to your favorite game? Don’t fret – Mark says that while the Soprano’s and Elvira’s Scared Stiff are currently two of the most popular, there’s an even playing spread among all the games and, perhaps surprisingly, 2-4 people can actually play on the same machine collaboratively at a time so bring your friends and make a team!
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After beating a high score, be sure to enjoy some local brews. As Dana explained,
“We’re trying to keep it all as local as possible, with Rhode Island companies first and then moving out into New England.”
Their goal is to have the best can selection in town, and they’re well on their way with 42 cans currently, and selections including but are not limited to Grey Sail, Revival, Whalers, and Foolproof.
The bar and the players are still getting started and there have been lots of new faces, but Mark says “people have definitely caught the bug and are getting really good, really fast,” so when you visit you may find yourself rubbing elbows with some local pinball wizards like Dale, Brian, Katharine, Justine, and Davey.
Even Bowen Kerins, one of the top ten players in the world and cofounder of the Pinburgh tournament in Pennsylvania, recently stopped by and set two Grand Champion scores at Flip Side, and Mark and Dana both hope that pinball legend and game savior Roger Sharpe will one day swing by for a tournament. “I’ve met and actually competed with him before,” Mark mentioned, “and he’s such a great guy.”
“It gives us joy to see other people playing,” Dana remarked, adding that the bar is becoming a cross-generational setting for families and other people to connect, no matter your perceived differences, share a drink and have some fun in a relaxed, welcoming environment. “You might not remember, or even know, how much you love playing pinball until you start up again,” Mark said, so be sure to add Flip Side to your downtown route and drop in for a drink and a game soon!