Already a family-friendly destination, Downtown Westfield is upping its fun factor this spring with the arrival of YESTERcades, an old school arcade that promises to feature everything from pinball machines and vintage Pac-Man to the latest, most high-tech systems available. Mixing classics with modern favorites, the gamer’s paradise will open at 151 E. Broad St. in Westfield, formerly home to City Sports.
The Westfield YESTERcades represents the third location for founder Ken Kalada, who set up his first establishment in Red Bank in 2011. While it had been a lifelong dream to open an arcade, it wasn’t until the Great Recession caused him to rethink his career that he began working to bring that goal to life.
“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” recalled Kalada, who went on to open a second spot in Somerville in 2014.
At that time, the entrepreneur said he was looking for space in a town similar to Red Bank and had been interested in Westfield but was unable to find a vacancy that suited his needs.
“We looked around in 2014 but there wasn’t anything that fit the bill,” he said, adding that YESTERcades strives to be a good neighbor. “We try to find a spot that doesn’t have any residents living above the arcade.”
As if realizing his childhood dream weren’t enough of a career highlight, Kalada said unlike any other job he’s held, YESTERcades is filled with people who are happy and enjoying themselves.
“When people come in, they might be having a miserable day, and by the time they walk out, that’s completely changed,” he said. “Playing these games brings them back to a happy time in their lives. My dad owned a pharmacy and I used to work there growing up and people were coming in because they were sick and then they had insurance problems on top of it. When people come to YESTERcades, they forget about the mortgage, their health issues, everything, even if it’s just for an hour. I’m more than happy to provide that venue.”
Kalada said it’s great to see families connecting by sharing their love of gaming. While a parent might introduce a child to a game they spent hours enjoying as a kid, that child will turn around and teach the parent how to play a game on an Xbox One or Playstation 4.
“It’s very cross-generational,” he said. “They probably wouldn’t play at home together like that. But here they do.”
Before you start hoarding your quarters, it’s worth noting that all games are set on free play. Attendees have access to YESTERcades gaming floor at an hourly rate of $8.75 per hour (plus tax) per person, with a one-hour minimum play time required. Beyond that, times are broken down into 15-minute intervals and rounded down. (So, should you play for an hour and 35 minutes, you’ll only be charged for an hour and a half.) Day passes, allowing you to come and go as you wish, are available at a rate of $25 per person.
Arcade fans were quick to share their enthusiasm on Facebook, where YESTERcades explained its concept in detail, writing:
“Unlike what you’d expect to see down at the shore, we are a gaming experience straight out of the 70’s but with a modern twist. No claw machines, no tickets, nothing that you would see in a shore style arcade. We’ve created an environment that is both entertaining to kids, and adults alike. YESTERcades is a wonderland of nostalgia where parents can recreate old memories while their children create new ones. Because we are a pay-by-the hour arcade people are unable to loiter in our facility. This will be our third location, with the other two successfully bringing business to the neighboring businesses. We also hold several fundraisers throughout the year to give back to our community. While YESTERcades may not be for everybody, most people find it quite enjoyable.”
YESTERcades’ locations in Somerville and Red Bank are popular spots to host birthday parties and events thanks to its wide range of offerings. Aiming to satisfy the taste of every gamer, YESTERcades also houses a number of gaming consoles available for play. From Atari 2600 and the original Nintendo Entertainment System to XBOX ONE and Nintendo Wii U, the game library is stocked with the top titles for each system.
While Kalada said he doesn’t have an exact opening date set just yet, he hopes the build-out process will move quickly since he’s already done it twice before.