Diary Of An Arcade Employee – My Time At The Arkadia Retrocade Pt. 3

Diary Of An Arcade Employee – My Time At The Arkadia Retrocade Pt. 3

My friends, in the previous two installments of the Diary of An Arcade Employee I have touched on the announcement by my friend, Shea Mathis, of the dream of the Arkadia Retrocade as well as the beginning of the construction for what would become the first arcade in Northwest Arkansas in over fifteen years.

The first two chapters may be found by following the links below:
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 1 – The Announcement
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 2 – The Work Begins

When I last left off, the hard work of bringing Shea’s vision to fruition had just barely begun. The contractors had been hired to transform the one tiny bathroom and storage room into Code approved bathrooms, with double stalls for the Women’s restroom and handicap accessibility.

Watching from the sidelines during these early days I saw Shea handle business matters that would resemble the fate of Sisyphus. Agreed upon construction costs were changed it seemed to me from week to week, starting dates slipped by and worst of all the promised completion times were not upheld.

Please bear in mind that Shea didn’t have access to an infinite amount of money, he had been smart however and did his homework and had budgeted the cost of everything down to the last nail used in the construction of the cocktail games deck. That is where the sage advice from the other arcade owners really helped, to lessen the burden somewhat of Shea having to find out the hard way on his own, though there was still a steep learning curve.

But for everything that changed in the construction plan something else had to be put on the back burner or sacrificed for the time being to reach that proposed opening date at the end of October. So what could we do in the meantime while we waited for the bathroom construction to begin?

We began to work on the pony walls at the entrance of the arcade as well as the party room. During the construction period Shea and I worked from seven in the morning until ten at night every single day, except for the weekends when I worked my 48 hour shifts at the Hotel, that is when Shea would typically be doing everything himself. Thankfully we also had the aid of our group of friends and associates that we knew in our other jobs that could be counted on to lend a much needed and appreciated hand with the massive amount of work.

So within a few weeks what was just tape on the floor to mark the areas of the pony walls and Party room went from resembling this…
Arkadia Retrocade - Work begins

…to this.
Arkadia Retrocade - Pony Walls 1

Arkadia Retrocade - Pony WallsParty Room Walls

Arkadia Retrocade - Party Room Walls Deck Outline

At the same time as the party room construction had begun we had to work on repairing nearly all of the insulation as it wasn’t up to par for health reasons, Shea did that all by himself on a single weekend. Many of the ceiling tiles had to be replaced as well or worked on to allow speakers to be inserted and for new wiring to facilitate appropriate lighting as well as Code specific emergency signs.

Arkadia Retrocade - Working On The Ceiling Tiles

We learned quickly that sometimes the most valuable thing you needed when starting your own business, the thing that was even more important to have than the aid of your friends…
Arkadia Retrocade - Hacksaw!
…was a good hacksaw!

The building of the deck was the next project and the one I ended up helping with the most. We started off with just placing the planks of wood atop the masking tape, so that we could get a picture in our mind’s eye of how it would look when finished.

Arkadia Retrocade - Deck Building

In this photo you can already see some of the 50+ games that were moved from the storage locker and that Shea had already begun to paint the Super Mario Bros. pipe!
Arkadia Retrocade - Deck 1

Arkadia Retrocade - Deck Building 2

Like many times as we were working we found that the best way to not lose our minds was to take a quick lunch, in our case there is a local bakery that sells doughnuts and strong coffee that in my opinion must be crafted by angels. Shea and I would talk through the problems facing the arcade and then bounce the solutions off of each other as we slowly would get hopped up on the sugar and caffeine. Which helped when you get back to the arcade and find that you had to put the deck on hold to begin putting up the dry wall for the party room and pony walls.

Arkadia Retrocade - Dry Wall

Arkadia Retrocade - Inner Party Room

Arkadia Retrocade - Inner Party Room 2

Before we actually started putting up the dry wall though, Shea revealed a neat little adornment design he had planned to the outside of the main party room wall…

Arkadia Retrocade - Party Room Adornments

Thanks to one of Shea’s brothers he was able to get his hand on these three pieces of actual arcade games and we installed them into the wall.

Now weeks into the construction we were fortunate that the bathrooms were well on their way to completion and the electricians as you can see in some of the photos had already laid most of the work for the new power outlets. Little surprises of course continued to pop up such as suddenly needing to budget in the purchase for a three compartment sink for Arkadia to have a snack bar. We were only going to be selling bagged chips and candy as well as canned or bottled cokes but the type of business that was being opened necessitated the need of the sink.

These continual surprises led to these continual looks on our faces…the exhaustion gaze. In this photo Shea is discussing some of the changes to the plan of the deck with one of our friends.
Arkadia Retrocade - Tired

Still we were getting closer and closer to the prize.

But that will be discussed in the fourth chapter of the diary.


Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. As someone who has seen the final product, I have to say these behind the scenes photos are both fascinating and inspiring! Can’t wait to read the fourth installment!

  2. Love seeing the progression of the arcade taking shape. Looking forward to the next chapter!

  3. Wow! You guys did some amazing work! Wish I was close enough to pop and play some games! Great work!!

  4. The link to part 1 doesn’t work…but I found it :D

  5. I like how you’re wearing the Pitfall t-shirt (I’ve got one too) when doing the construction. If you feel the need to build another arcade soon, I’ve got an empty spot in my backyard just waiting for you!

  6. Another great entry in this fascinating series!

  7. Truly exciting insider’s view you offer us, Vic!

    Next to Movie Theaters, Arcades are constructions which transcend their commercial presence to become a communal site of escapism, where the imagination of others give us roads to explore on our own.

    This is a great ride!

    And those cabinets as wall adornments look terrific.
    Wonder if I could fit some in here…

  8. Thanks for the kind words, everyone! I am sorry that it took so darn long for me to get the third chapter up but I do promise that the fourth entry will be up next week…and that in possibly two weeks I’ll have something even more special to share with you all!

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