If there's one thing to be said about the Horniak family, who owns and operates Deltronic Labs, it's that they are damn nice people. That says a lot in today's business climate.
If you have been in the coin machine business for, say, at least 15 minutes you've probably heard the name Deltronic Labs. It is a familiar name and it's seen in booths at the major trade shows. While this story is focused on the company, we all know that there is always a story about how the company came to be. This story begins with Steve Horniak.
Steve was born in a small Pennsylvania community called Sweet Valley where his father Michael, as most of the men in the area, worked in the coal mines. In addition to coal mining, Michael and his wife Anna ran a farm and raised their three sons and a daughter.
While the ritual is often for coal miners' sons to follow their fathers into the mines, Steve knew his future was not in coal mining and yearned to move on. When he was just shy of 18 he left home and headed to the big city of Philadelphia, Pa. While it wasn't what he wanted to do the rest of his life, he took a job at Sears unloading freight cars.
After only a few short weeks Steve took a bench tech position with Technitrol, a local electronics company. "I wasn't even sure how a power supply worked! However, I knew I wanted to know!" Steve explained. "It was something I was really fascinated with."
While working at Technitrol Steve took correspondence courses in electronics and learned hands-on at his position. He had settled in and found that electronics was indeed his calling. During this 10-year period at Technitrol he met his future wife, Molly Hendrick. Here's the story according to Steve: "One day on my way home from work, I stopped at a local theater in Chestnut Hill, Pa., called StageCrafters (it still exists today). The first person I met turned out to be my future father-in-law. As I began to spend more time at the theater building stages and eventually performing, I was introduced to Molly. We appeared together in various plays and eventually fell in love."
Molly's father suggested that Steve interview with Philco, a well established electronics company. Steve had the passion for electronics and he certainly had the experience. Not surprisingly he got the position. When he left Technitrol it was a bittersweet parting because he had to leave his close friend Russ Buehler. But there's a happy ending: Russ was one of the first people Steve asked to join the team of the present-day Deltronic Labs and over 30 years later Russ is still there!
For 10 more years Steve worked hard at Philco, but that little voice we've all heard now and then made him realize he had much more to give. While still working at Philco he took a chance and became a partner in what would become the present-day Deltroinic Labs. For seven years he worked full time at Philco and part time at Deltronic Labs. Finally in 1973, with three children to support (Jessica, Stephen Jr., and Colin) he left Philco and joined Deltronic Labs full time. At the time Deltronic Labs, incorporated in 1968, supplied electronic and electromechanical devices and timers to ultra sensitive meters and gauges to a variety of industries.
Word of mouth proved to be all the promotion that Deltronic Labs needed in those early days. Steve recalled that he was doing quite a bit of work for the Department of Agriculture and word got around about the quality of his work, which seemed to sell itself.
When the talk about product quality and reliability reached Sam High of Skee-Ball, who at the time was searching for a reliable company to develop the mechanical Skee-Ball into an electronic version, High felt his search had ended right at the door of Deltronic Labs.
"We had been looking to manufacture and market our own product, but we didn't know what that product would be," explained Molly, Vice President and Board of Directors member, bookkeeper for the company's first 15 years and, last but not least, Steve's wife for 42 years. She added that modernizing the Skee-Ball game, making it less expensive and even more reliable, was Deltronic Labs' calling into the amusement industry.
The first electronic Skee-Ball was produced in 1975 and four years later Deltronic Labs offered a modular, cost-effective ticket dispenser for Skee-Ball and other companies interested in redemption. "Skee-Ball was one of our only customers and being close to one another from the beginning proved to be very effective for our relationship," Steve said, adding, "When Skee-Ball relocated we felt it was important to follow. Skee-Ball and Deltronic Labs built new facilities in the same industrial park in Chalfont, Pa. The close proximity made it convenient for both service and distribution.
Steve's son Colin chuckled when he related the story of how his father got the nickname "Captain Midnight:" "It was an incredibly busy time. Many days he worked constantly well into the wee hours of the morning. That's how he got the name." To this day, Steve Jr. says he has never met a harder worker than his father.
In addition to Skee-Ball, other early customers came onboard for the long haul. Bob's Space Racers, one of the oldest and most loyal customers, according to Steve Jr., was thrilled when Deltronic Labs offered a workable solution to the bulky, inefficient mechanical dispensers. Others soon saw the efficiency Deltronic Labs brought to games and wanted to use the quality, reliable ticket dispensers on their own games.
The history of Deltronic Labs is marked by its efforts to revolutionize ticket-handling equipment through ingenuity and new innovations. As redemption became more profitable and sought after, demand increased for heavy-duty ticketing hardware and software. Steve's two sons, Steve Jr. and Colin, had joined the business full time by 1985 to further assist with the growing work load. By the early 1990s there was an escalating demand for ticket devices to respond to the proliferation of redemption games and to convert non-redemption games into ticket redemption games.
Colin talked briefly about his and brother Steve Jr.'s decision to join their dad: "Both my brother and I were so young when we started it was just weekend projects in the beginning. Then it turned to who can make more quarters than the other. During our school years it was full time during the summers and it was natural to be there helping out. My sister was involved during the late '70s and into the mid-'80s. When we all graduated from high school (between 1981 and 1985)Jessica went on to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she graduated with a teaching degree. Steve and I continued on with Deltronic Labs."
He continued, "Steve was interested in criminology and attended Temple University and I dabbled in some language and business administration courses but was more interested in design and engineering. Today I am involved in the design aspect, whereas Steve is sales and administration. We all wear many hats to get the job done. That just goes with the territory of owning and working in a family business!"
Meeting the demand
Steve explained that there was a huge need in the coin machine industry as operators searched for the perfect way to destroy used tickets. "They had to destroy them but the methods of choice were to burn them or soak them in bleach. Neither way was the ideal situation," Steve added.
In 1991 Deltronic Labs introduced the tabletop Ticket Eater, which won the title of best new product at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo, and in 1998 the stand-alone upright Ticket Eater, the first in the TT-2000 series, took the prize at the Expo.
The stand-alone model with Pac-Man-like graphics went on to become a mainstay in thousands of arcades, family fun centers (FECs), and facilities requiring admission verification around the world. They continue to be in such high demand that the machines are sometimes difficult to keep in stock, noted Steve.
Vice President of Sales Steve Jr. added, "The ticket machine supplier has expanded over the past 36 years to become a premier manufacturer of ticket dispensers, eaters, and interface boards, becoming one of the only companies in the United States that does what we do."
Experience speaks volumes when you look at the proven track record of expanding its focus in various directions while maintaining and enhancing the original services that made the Deltronic Labs name an industry fixture. Deltronic Labs still supplies Skee-Ball parts and keeps light bulbs, switches, and logic boards in its inventory while designing and manufacturing a myriad of electromechanical components, micro-processor-controlled mechanisms, and software for other industries. For example, Deltronic Labs has excelled in custom applications for the transportation industry.
"When it comes to new product," describes Steve Jr., "we do a lot of prototype and development for other companies. We work with and listen to manufacturers, distributors, and operators; their recommendations for enhancement are taken seriously."
All of the Horniaks agreed, "Redemption was a very small section of the coin-op industry when we started. After only a short time it began to explode. It has proven to be more than a fad over the years. I believe it will continue to grow globally as recent times have indicated. The recent integration with various swipe card systems and the development of inventory control systems and player accounts has shown that the evolution continues. We continually try to streamline the process. (As we did with the introduction of the Ticket Eater in 1991).
"Redemption is hard work for the operator but has proven to be very lucrative. In many locations it is the highest percentage of games in the mix. Globally, redemption has only scratched the surface of a virtually untapped market. We are seeing this from Italy to Russia to China. We have seen more product competition over the last several years and recognize the need to keep up with the times and continue to improve and expand product lines and listen to the needs of the customer. Our focus will always remain on the quality and reliability of our products. When there is an apparent need in the industry we act on it. The customer is the life-blood of every company and we have to evolve along with our customers' needs. The future holds many challenges; challenges that Deltronic Labs will continue to meet head on as it evolves with and supports the industry."
The tremendous popularity of ticket redemption amusement games remains persistent and does not seem to be letting up. Deltronic Labs has over 30 years of experience in the ticket dispensing business and has worked diligently to earn an excellent reputation for reliable, competitively priced, quality products, unequaled customer service, customer loyalty, and confidence that if the past is any indication the future is looking bright for this family owned business.
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