Jukeboxes Were Once Manufactured in Grand Rapids
There was a time when jukeboxes were made in Grand Rapids, Michigan!
Nestled away in a normal looking building on the southeast side was a company called Rowe International/AMI. The company was founded in 1909. For over a hundred years, they manufactured coin-operated jukeboxes that could be found in thousands of bars and restaurants across the globe. Over the years, they have made over 1 million of various style jukeboxes here in Grand Rapids. They also manufactured bill changers.
Manufacturing operations moved out of Grand Rapids in August 2009. The production of these devices was moved to Mexico the same year the company was celebrating their 100th anniversary.
The machines have had to change their design and operation over the years. Originally they played vinyl records and were operated by the coins you inserted. In later days the machines played cd's and eventually became internet ready. For payment, the devices had to start accepting credit and debit cards.
A recent story by the Grand Rapids Business Journal reported that the company has recently been sold to an out-of-state investment firm.
On the upper floors of their building, the company had kept one of nearly every model of jukebox they produced over the years. It was a jukebox museum of sorts, that many people didn't know existed. Very few were able to go and visit this museum as it was by invite only and never opened to the public. Fortunately, in 1999 I was invited to visit the museum. As I walked into the dimly lit room, I was in awe of all the jukeboxes. There had to have been over 100 devices in that room. I took as many pictures as I could, but still left wishing I had more time to spend with all the musical relics!
I'm not sure if all the old jukeboxes still exist in that building or not. I sure hope they do! What a sense of history you get just walking into that room. I would love to be invited back to take more pictures (with a newer, better quality camera...or even video).
Here are some of the pictures I took back in 1999...