A lot of people ask for the story of Boss Battle Games but I'm sure they don't want to sit through a detailed story that spans 4 years of ups and downs, so for now, I'll give you the SparkNotes edition and later we can run down some gritty details of points in time should you ask for them. (But I'll warn you, this is still pretty long, so hold on tight!)
The concept began in a spiral bound notebook sometime in the early 2000's. It was a pretty popular thing in our friend circles in high school to pass around notebooks that we would jot down ideas, comics, notes, etc. You see, we are old and cell phones weren't a thing yet. In this sacred notebook, Dustin wrote out a detailed business plan he created after being inspired by the lock-in at an arcade. The idea of going to an arcade and paying a flat rate rather than messing around with coins seemed much more appealing than jumping through state taxes, messing with coin mechs, etc. He drew out an entire floor plan, what games he would offer, etc.
Fast forward a decade later, and although the notebook was just a conversation between us, the plan was still alive. I graduated college, got a job, Dustin was leveling up in his welding career... Things were going smooth and we felt like it was a good time to start collecting arcade machines and learning about the industry in depth. We traveled to other states, met other arcade owners and got their advice on what to do and what not to do. We took a lot of notes, met a lot of really great people, and collected a lot of arcade machines a long the way.
Just as we felt like we were making a good plan for our future, life made a new route. We both got laid off our respective jobs. I thought I would side step this hurdle and got another job but 6 months into it, I got laid off that job too. My mother always told me, things happen for a reason, and I'm not sure if that's completely true but looking back, I'm pretty happy that things turned out the way they did. After several "JUST DO IT" memes, I convinced Dustin that the universe had made the decision that Boss Battle Games needed to open.
We took all the money we had saved up, did some location hunting, bought some more arcade machines, and with super short notice, opened our very first business. During our soft open, Dustin's friend brought him a gift... It was the business plan he had wrote out in that notebook that had been long since lost to time. It's funny how life works, how it can come back around for a reprise sometimes and remind you that you're on the right path. That ancient notebook paper is framed and sacred to us; That's where it all began.
In beginning, we caught a lot of flack for picking Washington Square Mall as a starting point, but we felt confident that it would be a good stepping stone for us. We didn't take a loan to start our business, just the money in our pocket, the clothes on our back, and a little bit of hope, so we didn't want to take a huge risk in an expensive location to begin with. We've always approached major life decisions with cautious optimism. At the time, WSM was owned by a company named JLL and they were very kind to us and the mall. They kept up on maintenance, they had 24/hour security, and they kept the property clean. We never felt unsafe and although there wasn't much foot traffic, one thing we were told by our arcade senpai was "if you build it, they will come", so that's what we did. We started in a reasonably sized 3200 sq ft space that once housed a Spencers years ago.
Low and behold, Indy loved the concept! We ended up being the flashing light gem in the quiet mall. Word was spreading that we existed and things started moving faster than we ever expected. Due to a structural problem with our unit, we were approached by the leasing manager of JLL and offered a 12,000 sq ft space in a more prominent location. They offered us a very good deal but we were really worried about how we would utilize the space. We were just getting off the ground and the new location needed a lot of work. It was very dirty, it needed THOUSANDS of feet of electric ran, and the water company was completely incompetent and could not sort out turning the water on.
We decided we would try to put our foot into the tournament scene that seemed to be lacking in Indianapolis at the time. We wanted to make a space that people could enjoy playing competitive games in at a reasonable price. We took the plunge and moved down the hall. The anxiety was high but we came into it with high hopes and caution. The gamble paid off and in time, we became the base locale for the Indiana Smash Scene. We met a lot of really great people, watched them grow up as people and players, and saw them move on to bigger things such as college, jobs, etc. It's a wild ride watching people grow.
While at this location, Washington Square Mall was sold to Kohan Reality and a LOT changed at the mall. I'll save all the details for another post on another day, but we were bracing for impact and began collecting arcade machines. We starting filling our warehouse, our venue, etc. We wanted to be sure if anything changed and we moved locations or expanded, we had the assets to make it memorable.
We spent 3 years at this location and really sunk our roots in. We hosted massive tournaments, we had arcade personalities visit, and we hosted high score events. We even met other companies and worked with them under our roof, such as Player One and reBOOT LAN. We stayed in touch with our friends that ran other arcades, we supported other friends that were trying to grow their own businesses, and spent holidays with arcade regulars. I grew up in the country and something I often heard was "If you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, he didn't get there on his own" and although I'll admit we put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into Boss Battle Games, it's nothing without all the support that spread the word.
Just as we were getting into a groove and feeling like maybe we finally understood what we were doing, we noticed things were taking a turn at Washington Square Mall in the beginning of 2018. Due to a lot of negligence by the property owner and various other things out of our control, many stores were starting to leave and foot traffic was taking a dive. We were informed in the summer that the mall would be going up for auction due to unpaid property taxes and we felt like this was the dark cloud we had been seeing on the horizon for the past few years coming to fruition.
We began scouting for a new location casually, as we felt we had time to spare, but to our surprise, things moved faster than expected. Simon properties were very excited to have us aboard and wanted us to move in faster than we were ready to move! It was really humbling to feel so wanted by a reputable company. We weighed our choices between malls and decided on a location and a move-in date. The move-in date wasn't ideal (middle of winter) but it was the soonest we could do and the latest the mall could wait on us.
For the first time since we opened our store, we did have to take out a loan to make the new location happen. It required renovation, machines needed repair, and we knew we would be closed a few weeks so we wanted to ensure we would survive without an income. It was a pretty terrifying prospect. We shopped around for loans and chose to go with an SBA loan. However, we signed on our loan in the midst of the government shut down and this led to delays. Luckily, we were blessed with a very good friend that limped us by until everything was sorted out so we could continue forward.
We wanted this space to be the arcade we had been dreaming of - that arcade Dustin had drawn up in his notebook years and years ago. So we made sure to make this one look great! We just had to cross our fingers that Castleton would feel the same way and support us to make it all worth it. We were incredibly pleased with the final result when everything was done. Our contractor (123 Steps Contracting) did excellent work on the electric and walls, and Nick Moon blew our minds with the graffiti art on the walls. It made moving hundreds of machines through subzero temperatures worth it!
Now we're somewhat settled in and it's a whole new world! We love our new location and Castleton has been great to us. We have a lot of new arcade machines on the floor and one of the great friends we made along the way has been kind enough to place pinballs in our store. We have plenty more arcade machines in our storage so we'll be switching things out from time to time once we get our lives together. We also have a back storage room we are converting into an event room where we will be hosting Salty Sunday, Fight Club, and private events again. We have so many plans in the work, just not enough time in the day!
Thanks for supporting us and reading this blog entry. I'll be sure to post more soon! I promise the next ones won't be this long.
My name is Phylicia! I also go by Arcade Empress if you find me online in games or other forums. I am the Empress of Boss Battle Games (I'm serious, it's my legal title!) and wife/best friend to Dustin/Zoex/Emperor of Boss Battle Games. Together, we've been cutting years off our life to keep this arcade running as smoothly as possible and while growing it and adding new and exciting things.