Reclaim Arcade: Some Notes on the First Few Weeks

The Reclaim Arcade reviews are coming in!

Yeah!

Last weekend made it three weeks that Reclaim Arcade has been open to the public, and it has been pretty rewarding to have folks appreciating the space and all the thought and detail that went into it. It’s a space that has been in development for more than 4 years now, even if we didn’t know exactly what we were building towards when we started.*  We opened on January 29th, with a sneak preview for friends and colleagues on the 28th, which was the first real taste of how cool it was to have folks in the arcade actually playing the games and enjoying the “awesome vibe.”

The above images highlight scenes from the soft opening wherein we tried to get a sense of what we might have missed in terms of details. It is one thing to imagine an arcade, it’s another to actually run one, and inevitably you will forget things. Turns out we didn’t miss too much, that said we did need a coat rack given it’s winter and folks had nowhere to hang their jackets. The other thing we still need is a slop sink for the mop, but we are working on that. Besides that, I can’t think of too many things we missed, which is truly a testament to Tim’s remarkable ability to both create and operationalize the vision. The opening weekend went quite smoothly, save the fact that we got the first of 3 consecutive snow/ice storms over our first three weekends of being open. The weather gods were not with us.

We did have a few last minute cancellations in an otherwise booked-out opening weekend, and we were able to lean on some of our customer support experience at Reclaim Hosting to ensure folks were well taken care of by providing refunds or coupon codes to reschedule a visit at their earliest convenience. Almost everyone took us up on the coupon codes or simply chose to reschedule for an upcoming date, which was cool to see. Probably the coolest thing was to see how quick and able our two hires were at running the space by themselves. One of the things Tim and I wanted to get a sense of right away was how much would the daily operations depend on us being there. As of right now we are only open 3 days a week: Friday from 4 PM to 12 AM; Saturday from 10 AM to 12 AM; and Sunday from 10 AM until 9 PM. What’s more, we have the schedule organized in two hour blocks limited to 20 people with an hour in-between sessions so that we can do a deep cleaning. A few questions we had were:

  • Are two hours enough for folks to enjoy the arcade? Definitely, that seems to be a sweet spot for folks, and no one has complained about it being too long or short.
  • Is an hour enough time to clean the space for one employee? Turns out one person can wipe down all the games, sweep, vacuum, and generally reset the space in 20-30 minutes, which was awesome for us to realize.
  • Is 20 people too many for the space to feel safe? This was absolutely not the case, 20 people in the  3000+ sq. ft. arcade still makes the arcade seem empty, there are really no issues with folks being able to social distance and play games without concern.
  • Do we (Tim and I) always need to be on-hand? No. Thanks to the fact that both Tony and Shane rule, they were running the arcade without our help by the end of the second week. We spent the first two weekends trying to show them everything we knew about the space, the various issues with the arcade games and pinball machines, the living room AV setup, the VHS store, etc. There is quite a bit of odd-ball knowledge about old school AV inputs and 40 year old arcade game wonkiness, but apart from that it was possible for Tim and I to take the second Sunday off, which was almost unbelievable given we did not feel like we could both take a day off Reclaim Hosting for the first 5 or 6 years!
  • Can we keep the games adequately maintained? This is certainly a developing story, and we’re resigned to the fact that we’ll always have games down, but that’s simply part of running an arcade. Games will go down, and we’ve learned a few key things, namely have as many extras on hand as possible: extra games you can swap out, extra PCB boards to quickly replace, and a spare monitor chassis or two for the inevitable monitor issue. We also have excellent local contacts for monitor repairs with the Arcade Buffet as well as someone who repairs boards that is within an hour’s drive, a trip I took more than a few times while I was in Virginia this time around. So, in answer to the question, yes, we can maintain the games, but it will be an ongoing process that will require time and patience, but luckily with the 3-day schedule we’re currently running we have time to troubleshoot any issues with the games during the week.

Those are a few of the questions that we could not answer until we actually opened, and it feels so good to be open! Tim and I make for pretty good partners, and the fun part about Reclaim Arcade is that it is so different from everything else we’ve done together.

We’ve had great success with Reclaim Hosting, and a lot of that was tied up with our incredible edtech network. But the arcade is a different beast all together—no one in edtech really cares all that much about an 80s arcade in Fredericksburg, which is entirely understandable. Reclaim Arcade is hyper-local in ways Reclaim Hosting never was, or could have been. It’s also first and foremost a material venture: the main attractions are by-and-large 40 year old cabinets that need constant TLC, so there’s very little that is virtual about this experience, at least so far.

I think seeing folks react so favorably to what we built has been some great reward for the focused work we have put into building this space. And it has only gained momentum since opening weekend. We’re now seeing the coming weekends fill-up, and from all reports people are digging the arcade, which is the reason why we did it. So, while still early on, the arcade is already a smashing success in my mind. It can pay for the employees, the strip mall space, utilities, and at least part of our arcade game buying habit. Thankfully, it really only needed to cover one or two of those things—so we’re also feeling vindicated in terms of the arcade as an investment. Not necessarily financially, although also that, but in terms of an investment in Fredericksburg and the surrounding area, the idea that there is hope and possibility in a good, fun idea well-executed: our faith in the seed that was Reclaim Arcade is blooming in the winter of everyone else’s discontent 🙂 And you can’t do that without a local community supporting you, so thanks to everyone who has come out and shared the love!

On that note, it is worth noting that our Facebook page has been crucial to building awareness and support locally for the arcade. We recently passed the 2000 likes/follows threshold, and a lot of folks reference Facebook when letting us know how they discovered the arcade. I’m not a huge Facebook fan for all the reasons, but at the same time it’s hard to argue with its efficacy in this case. People find us there and then come, what’s more Facebook is also where we have found a fair number of old school games that populate the space, so I have had to try and come to terms with my Facebook demons when it comes to the arcade.

Finally, I posted it already, but the above Reclaim Today episode is a 20 minute reflection Tim and I did 10 days or so ago to capture some of our first impressions around opening and operating the arcade. My favorite part about the video is how damn happy we are talking about the arcade. I have more to talk about, in particular specific repairs we did, the evening we spent with Arcade Buffet, the TV antennae we setup, as well as the TV stand we improvised for Reclaim Video, which is amazing, and much more, but this post is already too long and rambling, so I’ll stop here, but know there is much more to come on the Reclaim Arcade front in every way!

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*I have a separate post in the works about the metamorphosis of our little bit of strip mall in Fredericksburg since 2016, but that has proven quite an undertaking, but I’ll link back here once it is done. Blogging ain’t no job for the dilettante.

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2 Responses to Reclaim Arcade: Some Notes on the First Few Weeks

  1. Pingback: Reclaim Arcade’s 80s Living Room | bavatuesdays

  2. Pingback: Reclaim Arcade’s Game of Maintenance | bavatuesdays

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