After beloved Jacksonville arcades such as TILT and Aladdin’s Castle shut down, many were left to wonder if the age of the traditional arcades was over. That was until 2014 when Dustin Gartenbush turned an old real-estate office on Blanding Blvd. into his own game store. He opened the store right next to a thrift shop that was on the verge of closing. So a few months later after the thrift shop left, the new store owner took the chance and integrated it with VGR transforming it into the VGRcade and Game Room later that year.
VGR’s cup overfloweth with nostalgia. Visitors are greeted with a small lobby filled to the brim with hundreds of classic NES and Sega Genesis games. Beyond that, a sign pointing to an arcade pulsing with the sounds of 80s and 90s pinball machines (though some of the machines’ volumes are tuned down in order for Dustin to cater to the customers).
Dustin says that it’s hard to run an arcade these days. There are Barcades like the Keg & Coin–that are bars first, arcades second–and Adventure landing is firstly a water park and has a whole arcade building. The fact that Video Game Rescue mainly acts as a retail game store to support the arcade alleviates some of the financial burden, and makes it so that customers buy games and play them in the same building.
“Customers will come for a month or two and then realize that there’s an arcade next door. Then they’ll walk back there and squeal in excitement,” says Gartenbush. “It’s fun seeing someone relive their childhood through my place of business.”
Gartenbush has been collecting video games as since he was 12 and at the age of 20 he acquired more than $30,000 in games. From his collection alone, Gartenbrush had more than enough to start a retail operation.
The arcade has hosted many events, as well. They’ve done Pac-Man challenges where the Pac-man cabinet would be open the whole day and contestants would record their high-scores and the winners would get discounts and gift certificates to be used in the store. The game room itself has cultivated a fighting game scene with Smash Bros bringing gamers from across the region the store. Currently VGRcade hosts tournaments every Thursday, with 25-40 people competing each week.
The store recently celebrated its 4-year anniversary. Here’s to many more years!
For more information check out blog.videogamerescue.com