If you have read my main profile story "When Times are Tough," you will recall me mentioning a place called Game Galaxy, which serves as the main source of pinball and arcade enjoyment in the middle Tennessee area, including the general southeast region. There is an entirely separate backstory as to how this venue came to be and why. Sit tight because this is going to be a long read.
It basically all started way back in October 2008 in a dying mall in downtown Nashville. The primary goal was to have something to replace the old Tilt! and Time Out arcades that have come and gone in years past. As far as I understand this was the owner's first venture into the commercial entertainment space (at least in the area). While the original store in Hickory Hollow Mall went live in October, a second one in Rivergate Mall in Goodlettsville, Tennessee opened two months later in December.
This second location was the the nicer and much more successful venue. The sheer amount of cabinets, pins, video game consoles, game cartridges and discs, and other memorabilia was quite amazing. According to the owner (DreamTR on Pinside) the place was definitely prospering.
So DreamTR has a pretty nice operation going at this point: two classic pinball arcades by definition with a side store to support your console video game habits to boot. Everything is perfect right? You know the old saying, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."
So excellent, the year is 2011 and we now have two great old-school arcades within 25 miles of each other, which are again, the only two regional locations to get your nostalgic old-school gaming fix that is so blatantly lacking in today's modern "family fun centers." Cue the greedy mall owners' decision to bust out an entire wing of the mall for a 65,000 sq. ft. big box operation called, "Incredible Dave's." According to DreamTR, a family fun startup from Louisville, Kentucky entered the picture and smooth-talked the owners into kicking Game Galaxy out and plonking down a hugemendous space of Chuck E. Cheese proportions that has its own mall entrance complete with fake palm trees and an actual Hummer sitting outside the doors.
The place advertised itself as a one-stop shop for redemption games, food, drinks, and a full-sized bar with inflatables, obstacle courses, etc. Basically an indoor miniature theme park where they claim "family fun hits maximum overdrive." As you can imagine, DreamTR was pretty furious:
"Due to recent developments, and the arrival of yet another big family fun business named “Incredible Dave’s” , Rivergate Mall has asked us to remove all of our coin-op machines from the location. We have been asked to take out our arcade and pinball machines even though Incredible Dave’s has a TOTAL of three arcade machines at their only other location in Louisville, KY, and the rest of the machines are redemption based. It is sad when a so-called “big box” entertainment center whose main competition in the area is Chuck E. Cheese would stomp their feet and demand we take out our 70+ dedicated arcade and pinball machines. This is the SECOND of only three arcades in the Middle Tennessee area that have opened in the past two years and have now closed."
The whole situation is just another example of rich scumbags trampling the honest small business owner with shady and forceful tactics. They somehow managed to convince the mall that "The place you have now is basically what we do. If you don't kick them out, we're not moving in." I'm sure the owners weren't stupid and did not genuinely miss the fact that arcade and pinball cabinets do not equal cheap luck games dumping out crappy prizes but hey, in this world money talks.
Now, fast forward a few years to 2014. "Incredible Dave's" is now singing a different tune. A majority of their online ratings are fair to negative, with complaints mainly focusing around the poor food quality, lazy employees, broken down equipment, and racist jokes made over the various employee radios by the supervisor. Interestingly enough the last post on their Facebook page was on March 6:
"Incredible Dave's is now hiring servers, party hosts, hosts/hostesses, and game room attendants. Please come in to fill out an application today."
If you put two and two together, you can see that basically a majority of their employee base jumped ship due to poor working conditions and generally poor service. And I'm sure larger powers played a part in this as well. Now the place is nothing more than a ghost town with a blank faded sign out front. When I visited the mall again two weeks ago, they were digging up the "palm trees" and hauling them off. I just hope the mall can recover from such a big loss. Oh and by the way, the original location in Louisville, Kentucky just closed in mid-August. "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein."
The initial terms set by the mall were, in a nutshell, "As long as they're here you cannot come back." Meaning there was by their interpretation "no need" for both venues. I have to be honest, I really didn't see this coming. But now that DreamTR's business has returned in a new nicer-than-ever space near the food court (where foot traffic is generally highest), I can't be happier with the outcome of this whole debacle. In this story's ending, the little guy won. And this little guy never tried to hurt anyone in the first place.
As for the new (or old?) arcade itself, it's awesome. There is a sign at one of the mall entrances showing its name and location. The large windows on either side of the space really show the clean and organized setup of the store front (this was previously a clothing store so it is also well-lit). There is a divider as you come in the door that funnels you towards the desk to pay your extremely reasonable $4, $6, or $10 fee depending on if you want to stay just half an hour or all day for all the free play arcade, pinball, and console action you can handle. And let's not forget the big-screen TV on the desk showing Super Mario World in all its 240p scanlined goodness.
Another thing I immediately took notice of is how many machines were clean and fully working. The pins especially shine and just about every one there looks like it has just gone through a full shop job. The games back at the Nashville location are nice as well, but this location seems to be more controlled and that means more time allowed to keep things clean and working. There was only one arcade game that was turned off, and if anything the pins had minor to moderate issues (the worst being a flaky left flipper).
I once again took the trip with my dad and was taken aback as I haven't even been back to that mall in the last decade. It was a very fun occasion and will definitely be back with friends in the future. Congratulations on the outcome and top notch operation! Oh, and if you will be stopping by I would also strongly recommend Auntie Anne's salted soft pretzels with cheese dip. Another staple I used to enjoy as a kid with my family and they are still just as good now!
"The bigger they are, the harder they fall."