This spring, South Bend will have a new bar on the scene. It won’t be a craft brewery, or an overpriced cocktail lounge. In fact, the main feature of the bar will be free.
The Garage Arcade Bar, located at 503 E. Colfax Ave., will open in spring of 2019, complete with a young leadership team, free arcade games and alcoholic beverages, all in a garage with a roll-up door.
There is a lot of talk and questions about the “millennial” generation and how it is maturing into adulthood. What do these millennials want in their music, media, jobs, politics, food and cultural experiences? But the millennial generation is pretty simple in what it wants.
Generally, Midwest millennials want good beer and entertainment — some would say especially video games. The desires of the upcoming generation could not be more clearly emphasized than by the introduction of The Garage Arcade Bar, a concept derived from a nine-person founders team, all in their mid-20s to mid-30s, centered simply on free gaming, booze and a chill evening out.
The Garage will feature about 40 vintage arcade games, two skee ball machines and console games, which will vary depending on events hosted at the bar. The games and bar will be on the ground floor, along with a stage area for live music events. The Garage will also have an upper loft for lounging and playing the console games. Here’s the game changer: Where some arcade bars charge in quarters or tokens or swipe cards for play time, games at The Garage will be free, and visitors don’t have to buy drinks as a prerequisite for gaming.
“We thought of it like, ‘What would we want?’ I don’t want to pay quarters, or tokens,” said Erik Johnson, one member of the founders team.
It’s not lost on The Garage founders team that not charging for their arcade games will be missed revenue, but having free games is part of their new vision for business owners: give to your customers and invest in your community, and they will graciously invest in you.
“We hope if you like us that you’ll stop in the bar and get a drink that you’ll enjoy as your thanks to us for being there, and also just so you can have a good time, but that’s not a requirement. You don’t have to buy a drink,” says Chelsea Anglin, another member of the founders team.
The vision for The Garage — a repurposed car body shop turned wallet-friendly gaming bar — has been embraced by many in the South Bend area. The trajectory of South Bend’s economic development and investment into young ideas left the founders team feeling like the time and environment was right. They had confidence that South Bend was good ground and would support their idea and plan, and they were not disappointed.
“We all live here, and we all are so excited about what South Bend is becoming and what it’s been becoming the last couple years that we want to be a part of that growth and a part of that vibrancy,” says Anna Nelson, another member of the founders team. “It’s already headed in this awesome direction and we’re just trying to get on board and be a part of that because we are really passionate about South Bend, as a culture and as a community. This is a community that respects ideas and rallies behind good ideas.”
Chelsea recalled the time before she graduated college when she considered her options of other cities and other parts of the country she could move to. For her, and for her new endeavor with The Garage, South Bend was the clear choice.
“What I found was South Bend was going through a really unique period where you could be young and have ideas, and see those ideas fulfilled because of help from older mentors who cared about the city and wanted to see it grow and saw potential in the young community to make it happen,” Chelsea says. “That’s still true today. We’ve seen what that mindset has done for South Bend already, and fortunately that has catered to us as well.”
The small millennial crew has had a lot of help in bringing their project to life, with everything from business and financial advice, to leadership and creativity. As they continue to gather input and promote The Garage through social media, they see that they are the next generation of South Bend business owners and community place makers.
“There is an element of surrealism to it,” Chelsea says. “As a young person in the community, I feel really fortunate to be learning so much about business and putting my knowledge of business into practice… to be putting my other skill sets into practice on a real business in a real city that I care about. At the same we’re looking ahead to the future… hopefully someday we’re the experienced people who have done this a bunch of times and can help the young upstarts do their thing down the line.”