In just two weeks in business, Insert Coin has already become Ryan Brumbaugh’s favorite place.
Brumbaugh, of Rochester, said he was excited when he heard about a retro video game arcade opening in downtown Centralia where he could bring his kids, ages 3-7, to play. And he was equally excited to hear that the place would include good food and adult beverages. He said he wasn’t disappointed by the execution.
“It’s a great combination of old and new,” Brumbaugh said. “It’s a great place where we can enjoy the nostalgia and the food’s great and the staff’s great.”
Insert Coin is the design of Keli and Daniel Coleman of Lacey. The couple first became acquainted with downtown Centralia when they purchased some rental properties in the area. They said they fell in love with the town, which is why they decided to open their new venture here.
“Honestly, if we didn’t have kids in school in our area we’d probably move to Centralia,” Daniel said.
Keli was born in Idaho and her family moved to Washington when she was in eighth grade. Daniel was raised in Ohio and came to Washington in 2002 after joining the Air Force and being stationed at what was then just called McCord Air Force Base. He served in the Air Force until 2007. The couple met while both were working in information technology for the administrative office of the courts for Thurston County and married three years ago.
Daniel still works in IT for the Thurston County Clerk’s Office and Keli just retired after 10 years with the Department of Labor & Industries in IT. The Colemans have always shared a love of retro video games. Daniel even had a collection of retro video game consoles, some of which are on display inside Insert Coin.
“Growing up it seemed like the golden age of consoles,” Daniel said of his collection. “Everybody was coming up with a new concept to outdo everybody else and everybody wanted all of them. But not every family could afford to buy all of them. As I got older, I was like ‘I can afford them now, they’re cheap.’”
The Colemans had talked for some time about the idea of a retro video game arcade that also had a lounge or bar aspect to it. As parents of a blended family of five kids, ages 21, 17, 11, 9 and 9, they said they love the concept of entertainment centers such as Dave & Buster’s and the now-closed Charlie’s Safari but thought adding a more retro vibe would be fun. Though they thought the idea had merit, they said it took them a while to decide that others might agree.
“The concept never felt to us like it was feasible before,” Daniel said. “We liked the idea but we didn’t think that if we built it, they would come.”
When they traveled for work, they would always visit different arcades and lounges. They were inspired on a trip to Salt Lake City by a place called Quarters Arcade Bar. They said seeing a thriving business using a similar concept to the one they had envisioned motivated them to try for themselves.
The Colemans purchased the building at 309 Tower Ave. as well as next door at 313 Tower Ave. to create Insert Coin. The business features outdoor dining, as well as a main dining room and bar with about 30 video games that leads into a second gaming room featuring about 50 other arcade games. From Mario Star Block light fixtures to a Donkey Kong scaffold bar, the entire arcade bar makes you feel like you have stepped into a video game paradise. And video game enthusiasts so far have flocked to see the concept.
“The crowd has been amazing,” Daniel said. “We’ve had people from far north come to see us. We had one guy the other day come all the way from Edmonds.”
Before opening Insert Coin, the Colemans started with a list of games that they considered “must have” for the business, including mainstays such as Pac Man and Donkey Kong. They began searching for them online through sites such as eBay, Offer Up and Craigslist and said it took a lot of persistence and patience to find just the right machines.
“It took us a year to find all the games we wanted,” Keli said. “Some of them were in people’s basements.”
They traveled to at least four states, including going to auction houses in California, to find games.
“We have a photo of our travel trailer and we’re on a family vacation with two games in the back and then we stopped on the way back and picked up another one. We had to unhitch the trailer, put it in the back of the truck and then put the trailer back on,” Daniel said with a laugh.
They now own 105 machines, which they felt was a sufficient number to begin their retro arcade. Keli said they have a “Top 25” list of games and there are still a few they’re still looking for. One of the games they found they’re particularly excited about is a Tron game that is currently being restored and will be added to the gaming space soon. She explained Tron, based on the 1982 movie of the same name, is considered a “holy grail” of video games by collectors. Insert Coin employs an arcade tech who rehabs and maintains their machines, some of which are 40 or 50 years old. They also have had help from local video game guru Jason Ong. A building across Tower that the couple also owns is used for storage and a workshop for games as they’re being readied for use at Insert Coin.
“It’s nice because we’ll just roll the games across the street,” Keli said.
“It’s kind of like Frogger in real life,” Daniel added. “I think the downtown is used to us by now but I’m sure at first they were like ‘what are they doing?’”
Besides a staff of cooks and servers, Insert Coin employs two arcade attendants who assist customers with minor game glitches, including the odd lost quarters. And, yes, the games take quarters. The Colemans said they considered using a system similar to Dave & Buster’s allowing customers to use prepaid cards to start the machines but, in the end, decided that quarters were more suited to their retro vibe.
That doesn’t mean this techy couple hasn’t put a little of their passion for modern technology into the space. In addition to a full bar, the space features a self-pour beer wall. The technology allows customers to have their identification verified and payment card entered and they receive a radio frequency identification (RFID) card that allows them to pour themselves a beer from the wall of rotating taps from different regional breweries. On a recent day, some of the makers included Headless Mumby Brewing of Olympia, Top Rung Brewery of Lacey and Fort George Brewing of Astoria, Oregon.
“And it’s all based on ounces, so if they want to just try a little bit, they could pour 2 ounces and they only get charged for that,” Keli explained. “When you pour, it tells you how much you have been charged.”
Insert Coin also features a full menu of upscale bar food such as pizza, wings, burgers and totchos. The twist is their menu was specially crafted by Keli and their professionally trained chefs using fresh and local ingredients. For example, their stuffed burgers feature handmade patties with meat delivered fresh from Reichert’s Choice Meats and several house-made aiolis. All of their wing sauces are also house made and purchased sauces are specialty, including Portlandia Foods’ Portland Ketchup. And pizzas feature crusts made from Kalama Sourdough Bakery dough that is delivered fresh to their kitchen.
“We wanted to be better than what you’d expect to get at a bar,” Daniel said.
Wanting to attract local families, Insert Coin is kid friendly until 9 p.m. The space also features a mezzanine that can be rented for parties. They also plan to host tournaments, including a Super Smash Bros tournament Wednesday and an upcoming Magic the Gathering gaming gathering that will be ongoing. Daniel said they have been approached by some local gaming groups with ideas for different events and they want to hear ideas from locals about what they would like to see there. For example, they were recently asked to host a corporate team building event for local Starbucks managers. They said they had never considered such an event but thought it was a great idea.
“There’s nothing quite like beating your boss at air hockey,” Keli said.
309 N. Tower Ave., Centralia
Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to midnight
Friday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. to midnight
Insertcoinwa.com or @InsertCoinWA on Facebook