By LIZET VELASQUEZ and HARRIET RAMOS
It is shortly before 11 a.m. on May 29, and a line of customers is waiting outside the mirrored glass doors of Rowlett’s retro video arcade. The name RetroCade is emblazoned in blue capital letters on the building’s stone façade.
Stepping inside the dim interior feels like going back to a different era. Dozens of brightly lit consoles invite visitors to play Xybots and Asteroids and other classic games from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Prince’s 1984 hit “When Doves Cry” competes with the beeps and pings coming from the game machines that fill the room.
Classic games are making a comeback, and RetroCade owners Danny and Veronica Miller are helping keep the genre alive by turning a hobby into a small business.
“I was always interested in arcades,” Danny said. “I started collecting [games] and accumulating a lot … in the house. I decided to do something with them.”
RetroCade, located on Dalrock Road in Rowlett, opened its doors on June 12, 2020. The business is preparing to celebrate its one-year anniversary with a balloon drop and costume party.
Despite the dream and the drive, starting a small business during the COVID-19 pandemic was hard.
Danny said people were scared to come out and the business didn’t grow at first. Instead of making money, “it was sucking cash out of the bank quick.”
“We were barely surviving,” Veronica said. “We were in survival mode from day one.”
In January, a member of the community heard about RetroCade and created a Facebook post that turned things around for the struggling business.
“It was shared like 10,000 times,” Veronica said. “That’s how everybody … found out that we were here and that we were open.”
Thanks to that one post, they saw a big shift in crowd size. Business doubled. They had visitors coming from San Antonio, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
RetroCade features some more recent games like Guitar Hero. There are also games for all ages. They range from easy ones like Pac-Man to more demanding ones like Galaga.
The menu boasts beef street tacos, quesadillas and cheeseburgers, also known as RetroBurgers.
More than 150 drink options, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are available at the bar. A different craft beer goes on special every day.
The business is open from noon to 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from noon to 1 a.m. on the weekend.
Danny said they wanted to create an experience that would be affordable as well as fun.
“The average that a person spends in here is between $14 and $15 and that’s including the entry fee,” Danny said. “We’re always running specials.”
Unlimited daily play is currently $10 and a monthly pass is $20, according to the website.
As RetroCade continues to grow and expand, there are a few improvements the Millers hope to make.
The couple’s daughter, Elizabeth Palacios, has worked at the arcade since its grand opening. She said the business is still small and needs something to put it more in the public eye.
“Probably our social media presence,” Palacios said. “That would really improve [business] a lot.”
The Millers expected different age ranges when they first opened, but a number of customers are young adults who come to play games that are older than they are.
Axel Yanez, 18, was a first-time customer on a recent Friday night. He was on a date with his girlfriend, who enjoys playing video games also.
“You get the original feeling here,” Yanez said. “You know, the good feeling.”
The arcade was recommended by a friend, and Yanez said he enjoyed being able to bond while still being on a budget.
“This is a perfect place for you to come, have fun, and not spend a lot of money,” Veronica said. “If you bring a date, it’s a cheap date.”
—Chantilette Franklin contributed to this report.