By Polly Keary, Editor
David Shoemaker, 47, of Monroe, needs a lot of room for his collectibles. Seven cargo containers, in fact.
Shoemaker, a Microsoft worker, has been collecting full-sized video arcade games for the last 20 years, and now has about 200 of them.
Now everyone will get a chance to play them, as Shoemaker is opening an arcade, cafe and video game repair shop in the old Eddie’s Trackside building in Monroe, possibly within the next couple of months.
“I have this large selection of arcade games I’ve had for 20 years and I thought maybe I could do something with them someday,” he said. “And last summer I started looking for places I could lease.”
Affordable leases were hard to find, so he decided instead to see what he might buy.
The building in which popular former music venue Eddie’s Trackside resided until last July, when the bank seizure of the building from the landlord drove the leaseholders out, caught Shoemaker’s eye.
He decided to buy the building, which was listed at $189,000, and began the process last October. He is hoping to close the deal within a couple of weeks.
Then, as long as he gets a conditional use permit from the city, he can get started turning it into the Let’s Play Cafe, as he is tentatively planning to call it.
There will be a small cafe and eating area, he said.
And there will be larger tables for playing board and card games; Shoemaker owns about 2,000 of those, including classics like Monopoly and strategy card games like Magic: The Gathering.
But the majority of the building will be devoted to arcade games; about 75 of them at a time from Shoemaker’s collection.
There will be nostalgia games like Pac Man and Donkey Kong, which will no doubt appeal to 40-somethings who used to play them as kids.
And there will be games of more recent vintage, such as the post-apocalyptic adventure game House of the Dead III, released in 2002 with Playstation versions coming out as recently as 2012.
Many of the games will be one-of-a-kind.
“I collect large, unusual, rare and different pieces, things that look striking,” Shoemaker said. “These are the art of the ‘80s and ‘90s.”
One of his personal favorites is I, Robot, by Atari.
There were only about 1,000 of the 1984 game machines made, and I, Robot was notable as the first commercial 3D game. It was a commercial flop, and today very few of the games are known to exist. But the ones that survived have become desirable collector’s items, and it is now considered an important classic by many video game historians.
Another cult classic of Shoemaker’s is Dragon’s Lair, the first laser disc game of its day, and the first to cost 50 cents. When it came out in 1983, people formed lines as long as two city blocks to get a chance to play it.
Shoemaker also owns 17 pinball machines, and they will rotate through the arcade, as well.
He admits he’s a bit obsessed.
“I have one of the largest private collections in the world, probably in the top 50,” he said. “And I want people to be able to get in and play them.”
Arcades are having a bit of resurgence these days, he said. But most involve alcohol sales, and this one will not.
“Most of them are bar-cades,” said Shoemaker. “There’s a couple places in Seattle that are attached to bars, but nobody I know of in the nation is doing it like I am… We are aiming for a place your kids can come without worrying about some dude coming in and getting hammered.”
In addition to the token-operated games and the cafe, Shoemaker plans to open a video game repair shop, mostly for arcade games.
“I’ve been doing service out of my rec room for years,” he said. “So this will formalize that.”
One thing that will change about the building is that Eddie’s Trackside’s distinctive murals will go.
“We will replace the murals with something more in line with the arcade and games,” he said. “Maybe you’ll see a big Batman outside the building.”
He’s just waiting for the final permits to come through, and then he can start moving in, he said.
He hopes the town will embrace the arcade.
“Everyone has been really positive,” he said. “I think we have a real shot.”