On 1st December Ivor Thomas (Amusements) Limited officially celebrated their 40 year anniversary. Today the business is owned and run by Paul Thomas, son of Ivor Thomas junior, who started Ivor Thomas Amusements in 1976. However the association of Ivor Thomas with Amusements goes back three generations and 84 years.
In 1932 at the age of 24, Ivor Thomas senior, Paul’s grandfather, was living in Shoreditch and began installing fruit machines and bumper pin tables in clubs and bus stations in London – he even had a machine installed in the Connaught Rooms before the war. He was a member of the Amusement Caterer’s Association and was on the committee in 1961.
On a trip to Ramsgate, well before war broke out, he met his wife Florence who lived in Ramsgate. They married and lived in Shoreditch where they raised 3 children. In 1948 Ivor Senior moved to Ramsgate where he began working his own bingo stall in an arcade on Ramsgate seafront. Amusements were in his blood and it wasn’t long before he installed cranes rotaries and a variety of arcade games. He also started installing juke boxes in local cafes in 1954.
The first arcade
In the early 60’s Ivor Senior purchased the lease of the arcade in Granville Marina, Ramsgate. Ivor Senior passed away in 1965 and at 24 his son, Ivor Thomas junior, took the reigns. Through a run of bad luck and inherited debts from the previous arcade owner Ivor unfortunately had to sell the business within 2 years.
In early 1968 Ivor was contacted by a man named Jerry Gold who knew about Ivor’s passion for the amusements industry. This led Ivor to London to oversee the running of an arcade in Camden Town for Phonographic Equipment (which later became Associated Leisure) with the prospect of a position in the company that he ran (Photocades Ltd). Shortly after Ivor was appointed general manager of all their arcades and was travelling throughout the UK. He grew tired of spending weeks away from home, so he became general manager of all the arcades in Dreamland and on Margate sea front belonging to the same company.
Ivor Thomas Amusements is born
It was while he was here in 1974 that Ivor gained his gaming certificate and installed his first new machine in a Café in Newington – this was the beginning of Ivor Thomas Amusements. However, excitement of the new business was short lived, when intruders broke in on the first night and wrecked the new machine.
Ivor’s efforts were diverted back to Thanet where he ploughed every penny into the arcade on Margate pier – bad luck struck again when storms wiped the pier out in 1978. With the insurance company refusing to pay up, Ivor lost everything.
Space Invaders and Pac-Man
In 1978 things took a turn for the better, Ivor purchased the lease on a café at 75 High Street, Ramsgate, which he used as a base to supply fruit machines and pintables and eventually video games including Space Invaders, Pac Man and other popular games machines. He also used the premises as an office and to store machines. Within months Ivor’s machines were starting to be seen in many pubs and clubs in East Kent.
The big break
The Early 80s and Whitbread came on board, giving Ivor his first big break supplying pool tables, pin tables and juke boxes throughout Kent and was soon recognised as a top level supplier, this prompted them to allow him to supply fruit machines. Legislation changes forced Whitbread to dispose of their pubs and a number of smaller chains emerged. The Ivor Thomas name was associated with outstanding customer service and referrals were rife – soon Ivor was also supplying fruit machines to these new companies and the business grew fast.
The rapid growth put pressure on storage facilities and it wasn’t long before Ivor purchased 9 Southwood Road and shortly after 100 Grange Road.
Ivor’s son Paul showed a keen interest at a young age, helping his father with collections and joining the business in Mid 80’s. In 1987 Paul was made a Director and worked on expanding the business beyond East Kent and into London.
In 1992 Paul was made Managing Director and Ivor took up the role of Chairman.
The nineties saw further growth with new retailers and chains coming on board joining some more unusual clients such as ferries and motorway service stations. In 2008 while on holiday in Spain, Ivor’s wife Ann took a bad fall – Ivor and Ann decided to semi-retire. Paul’s wife Jane became a Director in 2012.
Paul said, “It has been an amazing 40 year journey with some interesting highs and lows. I take my hat off to our team who have been loyal throughout and have helped give us the reputation of supplying ‘outstanding customer service’.”
Paul remarked “New changes have included Engineer tracking for faster and more accurate response times; on line data retrieval reports to minimise fraud; preventative maintenance to maximise profits; and upgrading music and pool offerings. With a recent rebrand 2017 looks like it’s going to be an exciting year. I would like to thank all clients past and present for their support over what has been a most memorable 40 years.”