When I walked into Arcade Alley this week, I was instantly transported back to 1986.
QBert, Joust, BurgerTime, Crystal Castles, Galaga and, of course, Ms. Pac-Man all tempted me to move closer, hit that 1 player button and proceed to wobble over hamburger buns, shoot down galactic bees, gobble up gems or outrace four pesky ghosts.
I remember when arcades like Space Port and Aladdin’s Castle were going to be the death of our youth in the 1980s. Turns out, they were social, harmless, fun, interactive and filled with lifelong lessons.
Those born after us Gen Xers will soon get to experience the majesty of standup video games at Arcade Alley, 316 SE Douglas Street (in the former Lee’s Summit Cleaners building).
Main Slice owners Pat Maloney and Alex Ruiz have worked their magic again. This time, it isn’t via their penchant for creating perfect pizza pies (thank you, again, for inventing the Abe Froman). No, they’ve gone all Wang Chung on us to create Lee’s Summit’s first arcade bar, mixing the best of 80s video games with craft beer and a full bar.
All told, Arcade Alley will feature more than 60 classic arcade games, along with air hockey, Skeeball, pinball, Mario Kart and other games sure to launch anyone over 40 back to their youth while introducing younger generations to a time when video gaming was much purer.
Pat and Alex can relate to that: both have two kiddos under 7. And much like my Addy, they will likely be mesmerized by the simplicity of the graphics and the challenging aspects of many of these arcade games.
Taking a building that had sat empty for a few years and giving it a neon-filled life is yet another success story in a downtown that has told many in the last 10 years.
“We had a vision to change this into something completely different,” Maloney said. “We took this thing down to the studs. Sometimes, it was hard to explain what was in my head. But I could see it the whole time.”
What they saw was a concept that has been wildly successful in Kansas City and in many downtowns across Missouri and the nation — the marriage of craft beer, classic games and adults looking for something a little different than the bar they grew up with.
That unique vision was all theirs to develop, and with the help of fellow downtown neighbors and other Lee’s Summit businesses, they did just that.
Just across the alley, sign magnates Dave Eames and Ben Wine, of Fossil Forge, will have their handiwork displayed inside the arcade. Pat and Alex have also partnered with Collins Webb Architecture, Supernova Vending (owned by downtown photographer Mike Freeland), Owen Lumber and Summit Bank of Kansas City to make this 80s arcade dream a reality.
“Downtown Lee’s Summit is obviously a great place to own a business,” Ruiz said “It’s hard to believe we’re a month away from Main Slice being open for five years. With both our families living in DTLS, we always try to support local and look for opportunities to invest in our hometown. We had talked about how the vintage arcade market was taking off and there was nothing like it east of Downtown Kansas City. That coupled with the fact we found out the former Lee’s Summit Cleaners space was available, we decided to go for it.”
With two open patios, 16 TVs, weekend DJs, a private game room to rent and more than 5,700 square-feet of 1980s-themed, AquaNet-fueled entertainment, the alley between Douglas and SE Main, Third and Fourth streets may never be the same.
Oh, and they will be serving handheld food that will allow the gamer playing 1943 to wipe out screen after screen of fighter planes while enjoying a quick bite.
“I like to explain it as having three food trucks outside,” Maloney said.
As workers buzz about the arcade, the feeling of opening day is near. Extremely close, actually. But Maloney says they are still tinkering.
“Even in the last few weeks, we’ve moved some games around, found some walls that could use some art and murals,” he said. “One thing I have learned: it absolutely never goes as planned. This is the scariest thing in my life I’ve opened.”
And one twist on the traditional arcade: players can leave the quarters at home. For $10, you can experience all day video games and pinball. Patrons under 21 (in other words, those that don’t remember when MTV had videos) will be allowed in Monday-Thursday and Saturday until 7 p.m. and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Regular hours will be Monday-Friday, 4 p.m.-1:30 a.m., Saturday 11-1:30 a.m. and Sunday 11-midnight.
“We want to be a part of the experience in downtown,” Maloney said. “Make a night of it, have dinner, check out the bands. Make it a night of entertainment.”
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.