Small Towns: The Garcade

MENOMINEE FALLS, Wis. - Just about 20 miles northwest of Milwaukee is the Village of Menominee Falls, a community that plays host to a business that continually turns on good memories.

“This is like nostalgia central for this area. People come here and it is literally like going back in time 30 years,” said Gar Nelson, co-owner of The Garcade. 

Like many of us, Nelson grew up with machines like these just down the road from him.

“We would ride our bikes there as preteens and take all the quarters that we had in our pockets and just sink them into games. It was a really neat time period in our life,” said Nelson.

Over the years his hobby spun into something unexpected though, he had accumulated dozens of machines in his basement and suddenly had a game plan of his own.

“Basically I wound up deciding that I wanted to do something a little bit bigger and take this to the next level,” said Nelson.

The next level was opening the second largest arcade in the state. With over 100 games from the 80’s, 90’s, and today, Nelson is sharing more than just his favorite games.

“They’re discovering something new,” said Nelson. “You give them 30 seconds of instructions and see that light go on in their head and it just draws them in.”

Whether it’s Asteroids, Q*Bert, Pac-Man or Galaga, there’s something for everyone here. 

“The difference between here and when you have a birthday party at your home is no one has to sit and watch somebody else play,” said Nelson.

There are even a handful of vintage pinball machines on the floor, an unexpected delight for many wary kids.

“Pinball is something you don’t see everywhere anymore. It’s definitely a different experience and one that we really see young kids struggle with like they’ve never seen a pinball machine. They don’t even understand how it works,” said Nelson.

So if you’d like to play your hand on a machine that jostled, knocked or shot a spark of gaming love into your veins consider this throwback of an experience; maybe even consider sharing that experience with the next generation.

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