Eric Holniker, a young entrepreneur from Westminster, has been fascinated with computers and technology since his father gave him an Intel 486 computer when he was 6 years old.
Holniker taught himself to use the computer and enjoyed games like “Doom” and “Maniac Mansion” and developed a passion for gaming on Sega and Nintendo game consoles.
“The music and art captivated me,” Holniker said. “When you play a game like ‘Sonic the Hedgehog,’ there is unique music and a lot of art in the background.”
When Holniker was 11, he started playing “Dance Dance Revolution.” At 16 years old, Holniker was hired to choreograph step patterns for some of Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution products. “When you play the game, it tells you what directions to move and when. I wrote out some of those patterns. When you are familiar with the game, you can visualize a step pattern to go along with any piece of music,” he said.
In 2007, Holniker began going to anime and gaming conventions and setting up free-play arcades. “The machines were entertainment at the shows and there was a unique social aspect that brought people together around these games,” Holniker said.
In 2009, Holniker was contracted by arcade game producer Andamiro to create content for “Pump It Up Pro 2.” He did step choreographing, graphic and user interface design, hardware support and local beta testing. “A lot of this would not have happened if my friend and business partner Roger Voter had not bought a Pump It Up machine in 2007. There were only two machines available to the company testing things at the time, one on location at a public arcade in Seattle, the other in a garage here in Westminster.”
In 2011, young entrepreneurs Holniker and lifelong friend Roger Voter [the author’s son] opened Save Point, a retro video game store at the TownMall of Westminster. They bought, sold and refurbished games ranging from the old Atari to the newest consoles at the time including PlayStation 3. Holniker went on to produce a new “Pump It Up” game with Andamiro, called “Pump It Up Infinity.”
During the 2011 economic crisis, Holniker and Voter beat the odds and were successful and moved from a 900-square-foot space to a 2500-square-foot space within a few months an added an arcade. Holniker began repairing arcade machines. Holniker said “it is fun to learn how something was built, what technology was used and what the faults are. I loved seeing the machines come back to life and seeing people play them.”
The next addition to Save Point’s uniqueness was pinball. “In early 2012, we only had one pinball machine, an old Bally ‘Space Invaders.’ It was a video game-themed machine from the ’80s,” Holniker said.
“I brought my father to the store to show him our new pinball machine. He played a few games with me and talked about how he used to work on repairing pinball machines when he was about my age.” Holniker said.
When Holniker’s father passed away in 2012, he left some pinball machines from the 1970s and 1980s. “I remember dusting off what I thought were cabinets at his shop in Catonsville and discovering pinball machines that had been sitting for nearly 30 years. Between the surprise, excitement and attachment, I wanted to get them running again.”
Save Point grew, adding in-home repairs for arcade and pinball machines, importing classic Nintendo and Sega games from Japan, and increasing focus on event rentals.
In 2015, Save Point was invited to do the largest anime convention in the country, Anime Expo, but it was in California. “Can we do this?” Holniker and Voter asked themselves. Loading a 26-foot liftgate truck with 30 heavy video arcades, pinball machines and console gaming setups was a huge task. They took the challenge and drove over 2,500 miles to the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles. Then a problem arose. On the East Coast it is customary to include the use of the machines with an entry ticket and the machines are set on free play. However, on the West Coast, visitors must pay to play machines. “We needed $3,500 in quarters,” Holniker said. “I had to go to four branches to get most of the quarters. Friends from Las Vegas brought the rest.” Wearing bright orange Save Point shirts, Holniker and Voter walked down the streets of LA carrying sacks of quarters marked Federal Reserve.” 100,000 people attended the show that year.
In September of 2017, Save Point closed its TownMall location and planned on reopening in a downtown setting.
In 2019, Holniker and his wife, Stephanie Krug, formed a company called Plug and Play Entertainment (www.plugandplayarcades.com) that focuses on machine rentals for corporate events, weddings, conventions and parties.
They started working with McDaniel College on pop-up events. The response from students was overwhelming, so when McDaniel College remodeled the student lounge, they kept a rotation of machines on campus.
In 2020, Save Point opened their new location in Union Bridge. “I started working with a local organization called Dream Big Union Bridge. Their main goal is to bring the community together. I felt at home and wanted to create an awesome attraction here,” Holniker said.
Union Bridge is home to several restaurants including The Buttersburg Inn, Original Pizza, and Linbeau’s Railway Pub, but until recently lacked retail stores. 2020 saw two new businesses open in Union Bridge: The Union Bridge Gift Shop, and Flood Zone Marketplace and Brewery.
Save Point’s new store at 17 N. Main St. in Union Bridge is open by appointment only right now. People can call to make an appointment or schedule one online at www.savepoint.store to browse in the shop or trade in their old games. Save Point also provides services to repair and purchase vintage arcade machines and pinballs.
“I love sharing my passion and teaching people,” Holniker said. “I love seeing people experience things they would otherwise not be able to.”
Lyndi McNulty is the owner of Gizmo’s Art in Westminster. Her column, An Eye for Art, appears regularly in Life & Times.