Lock and load — classic shooting game coming to Surf Avenue

Melted: Coney “mayor” Dick Zigun stands amid the wreckage of Denny’s Ice Cream Shop, which he bought a year ago, caused by Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Sandy destroyed one Coney Island classic, but another will take its place in June.

A 1940s-era shooting gallery on loan from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park will open in the former storefront space of Denny’s Ice Cream, which floodwaters melted away last year, ending 24 years of selling banana-pistachio swirl at the People’s Playground.

Unofficial Coney Island mayor Dick Zigun — who bought the Denny’s building in 2011 and operated the frozen treat shop last summer — said that he had long been interested in the antique shooting game, which has sat in a storage area under the Wonder Wheel kiddie park for the past decade. It was built in legendary amusement manufacturer William F. Mangels’s old factory on W. 8th Street between Surf Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road, and its revolving metal target plates include World War II-era tanks and paratroopers along with ducks.

“It’s something that people will enjoy, but it’s also a museum exhibit, a living exhibit,” said Zigun.

Zigun plans to have patrons stand on the sidewalk on Surf Avenue between W. 12th Street and Stillwell Avenue and fire at the gallery with BB guns chained to the counter. The attraction will open in June, and Zigun has the game on loan for the next five years.

Wonder Wheel co-owner Dennis Vourderis said he decided to let the Mermaid Parade founder borrow the machine out of a sense of Coney camaraderie.

“Dick got hit hard in the storm, and he needs some help, and this is one way we can help our neighbor,” said Vourderis. “There’s a lot of history here, and you can’t lose it, no matter how hard Mother Nature tries to take it away.”

Vourderis and his brother inherited the old shooting gallery when they took over the park in 1983, and it was in use for nearly 20 years afterward. A growing and demanding youth demographic made them decide to replace it with a high-tech digital shooting range in the early 2000s. Both gun games suffered damages in Sandy, and Zigun agreed to help restore it.

The news of the gallery’s return to the amusement scene is already generating buzz among People’s Playground old-timers.

“To see a working Mangels shooting gallery would be incredible throughout Coney Island folklore,” said Charles Denson, founder of the Coney Island History Project.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

Blast from the past: This Coney Island-built 1940s shooting gallery will soon be back in use in the former space of Sandy-damaged Denny’s Ice Cream.
Courtesy of Charles Denson

More from Around New York