There is a gaming sub-culture dedicated to chasing a shiny silver ball.
When the game is turned on, the machine rumbles loudly to life, lights flash and the music begins.
It is time to play Pinball.
Ray and Laurie Juliano of Port Jefferson Station are aficionados who collect rare pinball machines, jukeboxes, Nascar racing machines and other Americana.
Ray grew up in Selden and Laurie moved to Long Island from New Jersey in the late ‘70s. They met on a blind date and will celebrate their 29th anniversary this October.
Laurie is a senior analyst with the IRS and Ray is a train director for the Long Island Railroad.
Besides Pinball, the Julianos love cars and have owned more than 30 vehicles, including Mercedes, Acura, Toyota, an MG Midget, a ‘72 Chevy Nova and a ‘69 Buick Skylark.
“We’ve had a lot of cars over the years,” Laurie says.
Ray likes German cars and was partial to Volkswagens, notably a turbo-charged VR6 GTI.
When it was time for Laurie to get a new car, she went on a hunt for a sporty convertible.
A Mercedes two-door coupe was in the running, but the couple decided to stop into Competition BMW before making a final decision.
“We never owned a BMW before,” Ray says. “We went into the dealership and Laurie walked right over to a red 428 hardtop convertible.”
Competition BMW sales advisor, John Oliveira, aka “J-Wow,” suggested that they take the 428 for a test drive.
As experts in the nuances of playing Pinball, Ray and Laurie know that every machine has its own personality and plays differently. They discovered that BMW shared those same traits during their test drive. “I loved that car immediately,” Laurie says. “BMW’s drive differently,” she adds. “There is no comparison to any other car.” Laurie bought the red convertible.
Ray now wanted his own BMW. He selected a 428 in white with all-wheel drive to use as his daily driver. That car became the Julianos BMW No. 2. Since Ray loves fast and powerful cars, he wanted to take a test drive in a BMW M4. He was there anyway, so why not?
Ironically, Ray, who uses flippers while playing Pinball, did not want flippers on the steering column of his car to shift gears. He wanted the real thing. Ray hit the stick shift on the M4 like a Pinball plunger and began to play. Once back in the showroom, he traded in his GTI for the M4.
“That’s the difference between men and the boys,” Laurie remarked.
The M4 was Juliano BMW No. 3. In Pinball lingo that’s known as a Trifecta, three consecutive shots in one game. “We were probably the talk of the town,” Laurie says. But, there is a compelling rejoinder for wanting only BMW’s on their driveway.
“I feel safe in my BMW,” Laurie says. The insurance companies agree since the Julianos are paying significantly less in car insurance premiums on their BMW’s than they were before.
When Ray began playing Pinball in the ‘70s, video games were just arriving on the arcade scene. As they became more popular, Ray started his own collection of Pinball machines. They helped him unwind after work.
Full of moving parts and switch contacts that need to be cleaned and adjusted, Ray became an expert at diagnosing and servicing his own Pinball machines.
As an owner of three BMW’s, he learned firsthand that Competition BMW maintains their machines with the same care. Ray is a huge fan of the Competition BMW service department.
“You can’t beat their maintenance package. They diagnose service problems immediately. They don’t wait to figure it out. I don’t want to take my car back multiple times. I want it fixed right the first time,” Ray says.
Both Ray and Laurie have high praise for Jackie Ruggiero, the Assistant Service Manager at Competition BMW, and their personal service advisor.
“Jackie lets us know what’s going on,” Ray says. “If a repair is going to take time, she sets us up with a loaner car.”
Ray recalled a recent incident that was handled quickly and expertly by the Competition BMW service department. Ray had a car in for service and received a brand new car for a loaner. While parked, the car was hit and sustained body damage.
“I called Jackie to report the incident, and she told me to just bring it back and they would give me another car,” he explains.
“They gave us an X5 loaner and we fell in love with it. You can’t compare it to any other SUV,” he adds.
The Julianos were amazed at the customer service they received. “The entire incident was handled perfectly,” Ray says. Ray has big plans to upgrade his M4 and will be adding the Dinan Performance Package to further enhance its performance. An M2 is on his wish list for Competition BMW Car No. 4.
“We definitely want to stay with the BMW brand,” Ray says.
“I love the entire staff at Competition BMW. They make us feel comfortable, like we’re part of the family,” Laurie says.
“When you find that level of quality in the car you drive and excellent customer service, you have to keep going back.”