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Game Not Over

Get the lowdown on news, trends, programs and more

Get the lowdown on news, trends, programs and more

Early midlife crisis alert: Certain oldies stations are playing Michael Jackson's "Rock With You." That means the Dynasty decade is as retro as learning family values from Diff'rent Strokes and exhibiting blind love for the President. But no tears, folks. Entrepreneurs Sean Francis and Carlo Terranova are letting the good times roll on with The Reagan Years.

Upon entering the strictly '80s video-game joint attached to Francis and Terranova's Fullerton, California, cafe The Hub, you start to wonder when Tootie and Natalie will swing by. But you end up playing Tapper aside a 25-year-old "kid" blasting away at Galaga.

Whether it's the posters of Oliver North, Duran Duran and that long-standing question "Where's the Beef?" or a Tron screening on one of four mounted TVs, twentysomethings and thirtysomethings are enticed into playing some 1,400 games per day. "[They] say 'Wow, I haven't seen that game for darn near 20 years,' " says Terranova. "They have a really good time, and also have more money to spend [than kids do]." If their wallets permit, customers can even purchase the games.

Started last year, The Reagan Years grosses about $250 daily. "If [we'd started] our arcade in 1981, and we were making this kind of money, I'd be buying a new house on the hill," says Francis. "We're not making a killing, but the minute we [double] our game [prices] to 50 cents, I think we'd have a revolt."

At least they'd have coffeehouse hangout/local-band venue The Hub, which the kindergarten pals started in 1994 with $40,000 in savings. Thought up at 19, a few years after the partners quit high school, The Hub has survived four fallen nearby competitors. The cafe hit a plateau by 1995, but a snowless mountain trip that ended with Francis and his girlfriend putting $10 in a Ms. Pac-Man tabletop provided revitalization.

Profits from a Ms. Pac-Man bought for $600 and five additional tabletop video games covered rent. Paired with a vacant space next to The Hub and $60,000 to start, the flashback fix was born.

The partnership, unofficially coined "Franterra" in childhood, has endured everything from buying and selling scooters to a failed sandwich shop. Now they plan to capitalize on the '60s: They're hoping a bar with the hippest interior around, dubbed The Continental, will draw 21-and-overs to Fullerton like it was Hollywood.

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This article was originally published in the November 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Game Not Over.

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