Arcade Galactic: The Sequel
Pratt Finds Opportunity for Expansion
by Adam Pratt, Arcade Galactic & ArcadeHeroes.com
I had fully intended to write an article for last month’s Endgame, but as things go, I got sidetracked. The last time I updated you on my status, I was looking at potentially moving my mall arcade to Idaho, but it was during that visit that a new seed was planted in my mind: opening a second location.
I was thinking about making these changes after the big FEC opened down the hall from me in November of last year. They have not only drained a lot of my potential earnings (outside of the pandemic crash), they also make it a challenge to market my business. I was getting frequent phone calls from people who somehow thought I was them. They also have the word “ARCADE” posted in giant letters on the outside of their building which faces an interstate, so anyone driving by also thinks of them first.
The Idaho location did have great potential and was in an excellent area, but it would have been extremely challenging to operate that as a second location. An easier way would have been to completely move up there, but that was still a difficult decision to make for my family who wasn’t crazy about the idea.
On the drive back though, I had a powerful thought: What about doing a second location in Ogden, Utah? Ogden is a somewhat big city in the northern part of our state and is a place I’ve visited a couple of times over the years, but not one that I was terribly familiar with. Still, I knew that there would be a number of potential locations to scout, so when I got back home, I started to look into it.
Not long after I began the search, a friend suggested I check out the Newgate Mall on the southern end of the city. I had heard of it but never had been there so, I drove up to check it out and was impressed. It’s nicer and larger than the one I’ve been in since 2008, and it has several big-name tenants (something we’ve never had in my current mall). I got the information for the leasing person and soon I was back looking at spots.
What they showed me at first wasn’t too impressive. They figured some smaller stores would work best, but I like going big if I can, so I convinced them to let me look at a 3,000-sq.-ft. space that was near the food court and right next door to the Victoria’s Secret store. After a few days, I got the okay to look at it, and the inside was a pretty good fit. So, I went ahead and asked for a contract to be written up. I signed that around the first of September and began reworking the venue from there.
The two previous tenants were clothing stores, so some work was needed to be able to turn it into something that would look more like an arcade. Unfortunately, a lot of the wall and decorating work is something that I had to do by myself, and living about 45 minutes away while still needing to manage my existing store, limited my redecorating time. But on the upside, I got a little help from the friend who recommended the place to me, as well as from one of my cousins who lives up there.
The frustrating thing about this though, is that you often need to rely on others with the proper skills to make things happen, and if a bigger client comes along, you get shoved to the side. That’s happened to me before with previous locations so I’m used to it, but it’s still annoying when you’re aiming for a target opening date and you’re stuck waiting on someone else to get in and take care of those other tasks. Perhaps that’s a micromanaging or perfectionist fault of mine, so I’m learning to be patient.
As of this writing, it is October and I haven’t opened the doors yet. There were some delays on the floor (I went with the same VCT tile that I have at the West Valley location) and a wall repair job, both of which had to be completed before I could move the games in. When I did grab the truck to transport the games, I was better prepared than I’ve ever been. But, of course, when I had the truck ready to go at 8 in the morning, the liftgate decided to break down before we even placed the first game on it. We waited about 2-1/2 hours for the technician to come out and tell us to take that truck back and swap it for a new one. Off to a great start, right?
Also on game-moving day, I found out the city had another hurdle for me to jump through, something they hadn’t bothered to mention when I went to city hall to get the ball rolling faster on my business license application. (I’d applied for that at the beginning of September, but emails weren’t being answered so I figured it was better to go in-person.) When I paid for it, it seemed like everything was fine, but when I called to verify whether or not I could open on Oct. 2nd, they sprung a fire inspection on me. That will take place tomorrow, and then I’ll see if there’s any other obstacles that prevent me from opening.
Delays are frustrating and are especially so because I’ve had to spend a huge amount of money on all sorts of things lately. You simply get a bit more nervous watching your bank account being drained like this without the location bringing anything in.
I’ve also had some delays with some equipment I ordered for the location. I was able to finance some used games through PrimeTime Amusements, Sega and Univest Capital, but as things have shaken out and due to various factors, my House of the Dead Scarlet Dawn, Luigi’s Mansion Arcade and Daytona Championship USA may not be here in time for my planned opening. So here’s my dilemma: Do I wait to open with the big, new pieces so I can make a strong first impression, or open with what I’ve got and hope people come back for more? I’m leaning towards the latter.
I also am re-learning the joys of hiring and finding the right people, those who are reliable and trustworthy enough to join my team. It’s been quite a while since I’ve dealt with that, as my brother and I have run the arcade for many years, but there’s no way both of us can manage two locations every day of the week and still keep our sanity intact.
Overall, it feels a little crazy to be opening a business right now since things are still unstable and so many businesses are closing their doors for good. But I was blessed to be in the position of having low debt and with enough in the bank to thrive a bit, despite the pressures in our West Valley area. Taking the big picture into consideration, and knowing that “this too shall pass,” I think it’s a risk worth taking. If it works, the payoff will be huge.
Adam Pratt is the owner and operator of the Game Grid arcade near Salt Lake City, Utah. He also publishes the Arcade Heroes blog site and serves as an advisor for the web-based game supplier BMI Worldwide. He can be reached at [email protected].