Owner of Yestercades Located in Red Bank NJ Opens New Arcade
RED BANK – In September 2011, Ken Kalada was getting ready to move into the Broad Street location of what would soon be his video game arcade,Yestercades.
Although the store was not open yet, people would walk by and stop at his window admiring the vintage arcade systems with excitement. People were so excited, they asked to come in and look at the machines, even though they weren’t up and running.
Kalada had a feeling that this attention was a sign of good things to come.
“I knew we were on to something,” said Kalada, a 33-year-old Tinton Falls resident. “I knew people were going to be interested in what we had.”
When Kalada was just 12 years old, he started helping his father with running a small independent drug store. That taught him the ins and outs of running a business that would later carry over to Yestercades.
“I grew up in that environment and that’s where I got started,” said Kalada. “I learned how to really go that extra mile to satisfy customers.
“It is the attention to detail that really makes a business, no matter if it’s an arcade or a pharmacy.”
As a young boy, Kalada had two older sisters who bought and owned an Atari console and eventually passed it down to him. This sparked his interest in video games and was the beginning of his deep-seated passion that would later become the inspiration for his business.
As he got older and had to handle financial responsibilities, he got a job in sales and was forced to put his dream of owning his own arcade on hold. In the spring of 2009, he was laid off from his sales job during the recession. This event was unfortunate, but gave him the opportunity to pursue his dream.
Second store opened
Kalada is entering his third year of business with his current location in Red Bank and opened a second store in Somerville this past May.
After researching locations and eventually finding the appropriate space for his first store, Kalada faced some roadblocks in the form of skepticism from the town of Red Bank.
“I did not think that the town would go for it,” said Kalada. “One of the biggest issues I had was explaining the concept of my business and alleviating concerns that it would cause problems.” Some opponents worried about negative connotations associated with arcades in the 1970s and ’80s, which included young customers littering, fighting, stealing and hanging around, not spending any money.
But Yestercades has shown that’s not a problem today.
According to Kalada, much of getting his business’ name out in the public has been word of mouth. Customers spread the word about their positive experiences in the store.
“Whether it is greeting customers around the store or even teaching them how to play a game, that is what has really helped us get our name out there,” Kalada said.
“It is important to provide that experience and go that extra step to make customers happy. You cannot buy that type of advertising.”
In the beginning, Kalada got most of his arcade systems and pinball machines from websites such as eBay and Craigslist, as well as trade shows like Pinfest. Kalada has a large collection of vintage arcade systems and pinball machines. It is no secret that the technology is dated, so Kalada keeps in touch with businesses that keep inventory of those specific parts and can supply him with what he needs to maintain his games.
According to Kalada, his arcade is not just a concept, but also an experience that brings people together and provides a sense of nostalgia from their youth.
“When people come in, they’re instantly transported back to that simpler time in their lives.” said Kalada. “Even if it’s just for a short time, it’s an escape.”
But they won’t have to come with a sackful of quarters, since the business is set up with an hourly fee.
“Every customer that walks through the door pays $8.75 plus tax for an hour and can play as many games as they want,” said Kalada. “If you feel cheated leaving any business, that is the lasting impression that the business creates. What you see is what you get and there are no tricks.”
According to Kalada, his arcade has a large and varied selection that attracts people of all ages and demographics. From arcade games such as Pac-Man and Street Fighter to pinball machines such as Twilight Zone and Terminator to the more recent gaming systems such as Xbox One, Wii U and Playstation 4, Yestercades tries to have something for everyone.
“We pretty much cover the whole gaming market and if you’ve played a video game sometime between the mid-’70s and now, we have it,” said Kalada.
As Kalada looks toward the future, he hopes to open up another, larger store location.
“I’d like to open another location,” said Kalada. “I would like to do what we have done with the first two stores, but better. There is always room for improvement.”
Locations: 80 Broad St., Red Bank, and 29 Division St., Somerville
Hours: Red Bank: 11:30 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays
Somerville: Noon to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; Noon to 2 a.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays
Games: Dozens of video games and pinball games available for play, including Space Invaders, Tron, Super Off Road, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Asteroids, Galaga, Pole Position, Super Mario Bros., Q*Bert, Final Fight, Spy Hunter and Missile Command.