Alex Zick has lived in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Florida, and now Minnesota, always gravitating toward hangouts with flashing lights, coin slots, and villains in need of vanquishing.
While living in Madison, he spent years working at State Street Brats, a sports bar, eventually deciding the college town was missing a great arcade bar.
Zick, whose background is in computer science, then moved to Jacksonville, and turned his hobby into a side hustle, buying and parking vintage arcade games in a local bar. He recently came pretty close to opening his dream bar in Madison, only to learn another entrepreneur had beaten him to it.
Instead, Zick moved to Minneapolis, and area geeks of a certain age are lucky for it. Zick's taking over the northeast Minneapolis space formerly occupied by Domo Ramen (which closed abruptly this summer) and preparing to open NE-Arcade—the beer, buttons, and, beeps haven that neighborhood's missing.
"The arcade business is kind of taking off," Zick says, "but in Northeast there's really not anything like that."
With more than a dozen arcade games already in hand, Zick is criss-crossing the state and buying-up others. Some are sold out of old businesses, some have been living in some dude's basement. (Occasionally to his wife's dismay.) All are rarer each passing, harder to find and fix.
For certain vintage coin-op games, Zick thinks this might be just about the end.
"This is kind of the last run of having some of these, to see how long they can last," he says.
Zick named Raiden, Killer Queen, Street Fighter, Die Hard, House of the Dead, NFL Blitz, and Deathball among titles he's already got or plans to plug in at NE-Arcade. He's expecting to have roughly 27 games, plus a couple Skee-Ball rigs for when you feel like extending your arms.
Expect a menu of craft beer, ciders, seltzers, and well-made cocktails, plus – Zick was adamant about this – high-quality coffee and espresso. A rotating cast of as-yet-unnamed food trucks and pop-ups will help keep weary players nourished and upright on their digital journeys.
Zick's hoping to have the place redone and ready to open by the first week in December. For those who prefer to see fates play out on cardboard, tables will be open for board games like Dungeons & Dragons. And if you're looking to pass on your fandom to the next generation – or just give the kids some cheap stimulus while you nurse a cold one – Zick says youths will be allowed to hang out until 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the night.