Retro arcade adds new tourism element to Metuchen

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 10/11/16

Most bustling downtowns have an abundance of popular restaurants and colorful retail shops. But in the age of the internet, there’s one component that can sometimes be left out — or more fittingly, at home — a business that can offer an experience or an activity.

Eric Berger, Metuchen Downtown Alliance chairman and property owner of Hailey’s Harp, Pub and Harp-Cade as well as several other properties throughout Central Jersey, thought that downtown Metuchen could use some more activities for locals. He also saw the success that Yestercades, a classic video game arcade, has enjoyed in Somerville at 29 Division St. since its May 2014 opening.

So Berger, who is also the property owner of Yestercades Somerville, brought up the idea of a classic video game arcade to Chris Flynn, owner of Hailey’s Harp and Pub at 400 Main St., about six months ago.

“I thought it was something the Metuchen downtown could really use because this kind of concept really draws people in,” he said. “It’s really important for a town to have experiences as well as shops. That does exist in Metuchen in terms of businesses such as our yoga studio or karate school, but this adds another piece to the mix — something that you can’t do online.”

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Flynn considered Berger’s idea and thought it would be a great fit for Hailey’s Harp and Pub, since the restaurant is a family pub, and a classic video game arcade is something kids and adults would be interested in, especially if they’re waiting for a table at Hailey’s.

“We figured what could be better in a small-town Americana Metuchen than an arcade?” said Flynn. “Plus, this really fits our business model perfectly. We are a place for families.”

The classic video game arcade at 15 Station Place, which officially opened Sept. 30, can fit 75 to 100 people in its 30-game room and adjoining bar area. It acts as an expansion for the restaurant, which is at the front of the arcade.

About 40 people attended the grand-opening celebration, which featured a ribbon cutting hosted by the Metuchen Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Metuchen Downtown Alliance and activities throughout the afternoon and evening. Flynn plans on hosting productions with vendors in the near future to spread the word about the new arcade.

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

The arcade may be new, but the vibe is anything but. Flynn is adamant about keeping the arcade retro-themed, only hosting retro games such as Pacman, skee ball, shuffle ball, Defender and more, as well as retro beers, such as Narragansett Beer, which was featured in “Jaws.”

Recently, there’s been a sort of reawakening of classic arcade games with other arcades such as the Morristown Game Fault opening up. Berger has seen it through New Jersey and beyond.

“I think that there has been a movement towards communal gaming from people sitting on the internet playing video games,” he said. “When you’re together with people in this kind of atmosphere, there’s a party element added.”

Flynn said that even though Hailey’s Harp-Cade will only host retro games, he plans to switch some of the games out quarterly depending on what people want to play so that the arcade stays fresh.

“If you want to play modern games on a PlayStation, then you can do that at home,” said Flynn. “Our goal is to stay retro.”

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Hailey’s Harp-Cade

Where: 400 Main St., can also be accessed at 15 Station Place, Metuchen

Contact: haileysharpandpub.com, 732-321-0777

Hours: Tuesday through Friday 3 p.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday noon to midnight 

Cost: Entry into arcade is free, cost per game varied from .25 to $1 

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