The retro gaming center made a splash this winter, but business has slowed considerably.
When I last wrote about the Twin Cities' only vintage arcade -- Rusty Quarters -- owners Sage and Annie Spirtos were confident they could make their business work, one quarter at a time.
"We're doing pretty good," Sage said in January, one month after opening. "Not enough to be millionaires but enough to keep the lights on."
Well, six months later, the novelty seems to have worn off for some customers, and Rusty Quarters is struggling. The small storefront in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood is a nostalgic trip, stocked with 20- and 30-year-old games like "Donkey Kong," "Galaga" and "Rampage." Recently Sage took to the arcade's lively Facebook page to query fans for feedback. He also warned them that this slow period might result in the shop's demise.
Regulars offered suggestions, such as raising the game cost to 50 cents (the Spirtoses want to stick with one quarter). [Update: It sounds like the arcade will move to 50-cent games on June 12.] Some people suggested a PayPal account for donations (which the owners promptly set up on the arcade's website). Others said the owners needed to work on a few things, such as erratic opening times (because of Annie's broken leg, the couple have been late to open the shop on several occasions).
"A lot of people are upset when we open late -- and they have a right to be," Annie told me last week.
The Spirtoses are working on a more elaborate window sign to attract customers. They recently took down the last store's signage. Per a zoning law, the arcade has been unable to open earlier than 3 p.m. on weekdays. They hope to expand hours this summer once school ends.
There's no doubt it's an uphill battle for the little arcade that could. Rusty Quarters' Facebook wall is chock full of impassioned messages, with customers promising to make more visits. That's about all the owners can ask for.
Donkey Kong, here I come.
Hell and Brimstone
Here's your weekly craft-beer update: Two fiery brews are making their debut.
Surly will celebrate the return of its seasonal German lager, Hell, with a release party at Sea Salt Eatery (4801 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls.). These launches are typically one-night affairs, but Surly is making a weekend out of it. The Surly beer trailer will be parked outside the Minnehaha Falls destination from Saturday to Monday.
Earlier this week, the much smaller Boom Island Brewing released its fourth beer at Eli's East. The Belgian tripel is called Brimstone and clocks in at 9.5 percent alcohol, so be careful with this bad boy. Look for it at more bars and in liquor stores soon.
Big money for big words
Last week, the Loft Literary Center received a $150,000 grant to sustain and expand its spoken-word poetry programming, which is overseen by acclaimed poet Bao Phi. The money, awarded by the Surdna Foundation of New York, comes at a critical time for Phi's decade-old spoken word showcase, Equilibrium (called EQ for short). The series, which books nationally known poets of color, has been a vibrant space for spoken word in the Twin Cities. But in a rough economy, grant money has been difficult to come by.
"Before we got the news, I was a little bit nervous that our time was up at EQ," Phi said.
The grant will fund EQ for the next two years, with four shows annually. It will also pay for an ambitious fellowship program. I wrote about EQ back in 2007, on the cusp of its fifth anniversary. At the time, I asked Phi whether he thought the program would last another five years. "I hope so," he said. EQ's next show will be in September, exactly 10 years since its debut.
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