Monday, March 7, 2011

Homebase for an arcade???

It's been quite awhile since my last post on what I have come across while trying to start my own arcade. I have two important things to discuss that I have come across over the next two weeks. First off I will discuss one extremely low cost beginning option for starting an arcade. This idea came from Andy (who ran Tokyo Game Action (TGA) with his wife Chie) during a conversation while he was visiting the states. Andy stuck the great idea of starting an arcade related business out of the home. While doing this is nothing new, many people currently run arcade repair shops out of their home, some have even started their business in their home and then moved onto a store front (Richie Knucklez started out like this). So what makes running an arcade business out of the home a viable option? Read on and find out:

First things first, running a business out of your home depends solely on your local town/city zoning laws. Yes, zoning rears its ugly head once again. You can not begin an arcade repair shop pr arcade show room right out of a residential home in anywhere town USA. You have to first check that the area your house is in is zoned for business use. This zoning can be labeled as simple as business, or it could be labeled as commercial, multi use, etc. The names of zoning codes change from state to state (and even possible town to city). Best way to get a heads up is to meet with your town/city business planner. They can either tell you or direct you to an area. A good rule of thumb is the location of the house. A house located on, or near a main street or other businesses will most likely be zoned for a home business. Houses in or near industrial parks as well are good for this. Of course the downside is the location for living. I am not saying houses in these areas are unlivable, but you do want to make sure it is in an area you like for both your living and business. I was looking at some homes that were zoned for business as well as residential and all I can say is the few I found by me were either on a main road with little to no front yard, or they were next to or across form mechanic shops, junk yards, etc. So if you are in the market for a house and you want to start an arcade business, do not rule out homes that are zoned for a business type use.

Now comes the next major issue. Say you can start a home business or you find a home zoned for such use, you know have the lovely task of making sure there is adequate parking, handicap accessibility, adequate facilities, the works. Making a trip to your town/city business planner is essential to get the low down on what will be required for your business. Odds are that a full swing arcade will not be allowed, but getting creative can help fix this issue. During my conversation with Andy, he told me how two other members of TGA had started small home arcades of their own. These are mainly to support the TGA/Bemani community in the New England area after TGA had to unfortunately close. Andy and I talked about my progress starting an arcade, zoning issues and city laws I ran into that prevented me from starting up and other typical obstacles I've had to circumvent during the past few months. Readers know that my attempt to start my business has not been on hold, but has always been going on despite lack of updates. Andy pointed out the home arcade option. We discussed the Japanese/custom cabinet showroom plan I have been working on. We discussed my interest to open as an arcade for events in the beginning with the main goal being to open at least once a week, a model similar to Richie Knucklez Flashback Fridays (every Friday Richie opens his showroom up as an arcade from 6pm to 10pm. 10 bucks all you can play). Andy pointed out that a main street operation would not be necessary. My bulk of clientele will not be the typical person walking down the street, but rather the hardcore fans who are willing to travel from as far away as three states to take part in what my future arcade operation would offer. Andy pointed out how TGA when located in Winchendon Ma was just that. People knew from the interwebs, word of mouth, and events that TGA existed and traveled to partake just on that. Nick and I drove from NY to TGA after we heard about the place from a friend down in NJ at a local event being held at the video game store Digital Press. A store front operation is not vital for my plans. Andy made sure to include that opening an arcade business in a densely populated suburb would be signing my own death note. He told me how parking would be vital and noise an issue so having neighbors that get tired of cars strewn down the street with loud noise coming out of a garage may result in a phone call to the local police and or fire department. Andy mentioned how industrial parks are great for this because there are not a lot of people usually around to complain. He then began to mention the issue of money coming onto the premises for the use of arcade games. Laws can be funny with this stuff. He suggested running the place based "membership" like a social club. Have the "membership fee" transactions take place over the internet so money never crosses hands on your property, nor does it get put into an arcade machine. You can also have better control and a heads up with who is coming to your place. This can be handy if your arcade business is literally in your house as oppose to a garage or separate building on your property. If a membership system is too much, try donations. These could also work and could easily be set up through paypal. Again, double check this stuff with your local town/city governments to prevent any issues in the future.

The conversation continued as such with a sort of combined genius idea light bulb moment. What about the country? What about a house in a business/multi use zoned area with minimal neighbors? What would it be like to operate an arcade business out of a garage without having to worry about noise complaints, parked car complaints, or virtually any complaints at all? So, a rural/country setting that also happens to be near civilization might be the key. An extra bonus for something like this would be that some rural areas are zoned "rural" which means they have no zoning laws for business use so you are free to set an in home business up.

So, there is another option for starting an arcade business. This one could be the most cost effective, but also the most intrusive on your personal life. The good news is if your venture starts to take off, you could then decide to move to a store front or bigger space if you need to. It is also important to keep in mind that this start up may work better as a hobby in the beginning. My personal goal is to not make a living off of my arcade business, but rather provide a Japanese arcade gaming experience in America, much like my personal experiences playing arcade games in Tokyo.

Next week will be a special posting about starting an arcade. I have gotten some positive feedback from people who run arcades about my posts. More importantly, I have gotten some great tips and insight on starting an arcade from these same people. I am going to compile this information into a post for everyone else to read. So be sure to check back next Monday with some insights from whom I consider to be the Arcade Elite.

1 comment:

  1. This is a good way to get started. Low start-up / running cost. You won't be making boatloads of cash but, it doesn't sound like that is your goal.