MANCHESTER, NH – Before he got the keys to the kingdom as new owner of Electric Avenue arcade, Sean Greenlaw was a fan. If anything, the pandemic’s closure of the popular arcade bar at 24 Bridge St. became a chance at second life, not only for the arcade, but for Greenlaw.
“When I saw they posted it was for sale, I looked at where I was in my life, what I was doing, and I figured what’s the worse they could say – we’re not interested in selling to you?”, said Greenlaw back in July, when he thought buying a turnkey business would be about as simple as turning the key.
Not so much.
On Sept. 11 Greenlaw finally got to turn that key for a very soft opening, just to make sure all the bells and whistles were ready to ding and whirl. Without complaining too much, Greenlaw said the process of getting all the necessary permits to open was daunting, especially as a first-time business owner.
“The Chamber has been a great help, and I’ve leaned on (former owners) Chuck and Sarah (Vorias). But yeah, there have been hurdles,” Greenlaw said. His liquor license should be secured in time for next week’s official opening on Sept. 16, fingers crossed. Nuff said.
On Saturday Greenlaw was chatting with customer No. 1, Leann Charron, who just happened to be walking by when she saw the door was open and fun was waiting inside. Although she’s lived in the city for a few years, she missed out on the first iteration of Electric Avenue. She was finishing up some Dunkaroos and Sprite, “just like my childhood,” she said, between texting her friends to invite them over to check out the place.
“It’s exciting. In my teens I loved to go to Hampton to play the arcades. Now it’s in my city,” Charron said.
Greenlaw remembers walking into the arcade to talk with Chuck and Sarah about his interest in buying the place.
“I was focused on what they built and what made me happy about being a customer. Even though it was going to be my first business, I hoped they’d take a chance on me because I’m a good fit,” Greenlaw said.
Game playing was one of the foundations of Greenlaw’s childhood. His dad used to be manager at Dream Machine at the Fox Run Mall in Newington.
“He passed away when I was young but his love of video games and comics and all that stuff left a lasting impression on me. It’s one of those things that’s become my comfort zone,” Greenlaw says, a passion he has enjoyed sharing with his 3-year-old nephew and one he hopes to pass on to the next generation of game players.
He has a background in finance and expects that aspect of running a business will be second nature. It’s getting a feel for how to staff up, budget and bring in customers that will take some time.
To that end, he was quick to bring back Kate Galvin, who will serve as a bartender and is the official pinball repair wizard. When she saw Electric Avenue was hiring for a reopening, she called and asked if they were looking for someone to clean the machines.
“He did a background check on me, and I don’t blame him. He made sure Chuck and Sarah liked me,” Galvin said, with a laugh.
As for how she became a pinball wiz, Galvin learned from the best.
“There was a woman who owned and operated Pinball Wizard in Pelham, which unfortunately is no longer open, but she knew how to fix everything. She hired me as a candy girl, and I learned everything she knew,” says Galvin, taking a short break from waxing the innards of the Creature from the Black Lagoon pinball game to tell her story.
Also pitching in will be Henri Robitaille, brand manager, and Lauren Kustwan, also a bartender. Once his liquor license is secured, Greenlaw will be working with local brewers like To Share and Lithermans, and plans to slowly expand the menu from Skittles and Dunkaroos to include personal-sized pizzas, chips and dip, and paninis.
For right now, he’s easing into it all and keeping everything as it was, pre-pandemic. Those who knew and loved the original Electric Avenue will find it to be the same comfortable space.
But he’s also got lots of big ideas, including bringing more new-school gaming into the mix, and championing tabletop gaming for communities and kids in the area. He currently volunteers with Role Initiatives, based in northeast Pennsylvania. The organization runs tabletop games for PAX (Penny Arcade Expos), regional gaming festivals.
“We run the D&D tabletop for those events,” Greenlaw says, and says he looks forward to partnering with other local game-focused businesses, like Boards and Brews, to expand interest in tabletop games, especially among younger players.
As for the future, Greenlaw is specifically ready for a grand opening next week when his regular hours will kick in. Thursdays and Fridays from 6-11 p.m., Saturday noon to midnight, and Sundays noon to 10 p.m.
“Saturdays will be all ages from noon to 8 p.m. ad then after 8 p.m. it will be 21+,” he says. He will also happily book private events.
As for the extended future, Greenlaw sees a lot of opportunity with things like NintendoTwitch streaming and interactive ways to connect players, whether they’re physically at Electric Avenue or playing from home, and already has a watch party on the schedule.
Starting this week he will tune in the arcade TV to the new live-action “Frogger” game show, which just premiered on the Peacock network Sept. 9. In the spirit of “American Ninja Warrior” and “Wipeout,” contestants have to make their way across an obstacle course based on the hazards included in the classic 1981 game system to achieve the title of America’s finest Frogger and a cash prize of $100,000.
“Great timing for us,” Greenlaw said as he pondered a question about how it felt to finally be in business.
“You know, given the lengthy process it’s been, I was just feeling happy to be opening the door,” Greenlaw said. “Although I did one of those movie moments where I leaned out the door like this,” he says, stretching his arms out over his head like a scene from “Singing in the Rain,” where Gene Kelly is happily tap-dancing his way through a movie cityscape. “It’s been a lot. I learned more in the past four months than I learned in college.”
Although the learning curve will continue, Greenlaw is excited to meet some of the old regulars and get their feedback.
“I think of myself as part owner and part steward of what Chuck and Sarah built. They did an amazing job creating an awesome community, and I’m humbled and blown away and excited to be able to open the doors and welcome them back,” Greenlaw said.
If you’re out and about Sept. 11, stop by Electric Avenue for a soda and some candy, and buy a few tokens. The crew will be there until midnight.