80s nostalgia is strong in new TC arcade

Jun 1, 2016

It’s been 35 years since the heyday of video game arcades. By the late 1980s, most arcades had died, but over the last few years, the classic games started making a comeback, popping up in hip neighborhoods in major cities.

A Traverse City couple saw the trend and decided they wanted in on the action. Last week, they opened their new arcade, the Coin Slot, in the warehouse district.

It’s the first time I’ve been in a real arcade in I don’t know how long.

I’m hit with a wave of nostalgia right away, taking me back to the strip mall arcade next to the Lucky Grocery in my old neighborhood. A gang of kids with quarters jangling in their pockets, huddled together in the dark around Joust or Q-Bert games, their faces cast in a blue-green glow.

The game Dig Dug was the bane of my existence back in the day. I had a love-hate relationship with the little spaceman dude who spends his miserable life digging tunnels underground, pumping his enemies full of air with a bicycle pump.

The Coin Slot is decorated with art depicting characters from classic video games.
Credit Aaron Selbig

Scott Pierson is better at Dig Dug than I ever was. Pierson and his wife, Erica, opened the Coin Slot last week.

“We’ve been fans of arcades for a while,” says Scott Pierson. “We started collecting [games] within the last year or two.”

“It all started with the first one and then just the … fun of the hunt, and then locating the next one and figuring it all out,” says Erica Pierson. “It’s kind of addicting.”

That first one was Centipede. After that, the Piersons’ obsession with classic games turned to table-tops, pinball machines and even SkeeBall.

“We kind of got to the point where we had enough that we said it might be a good idea to start a business and share them with people, and let them be used a little more often than we could use them by ourselves,” says Scott Pierson.

They say the games can cost anywhere from $400 to $2,000. But for the Piersons, it’s worth it now that the Coin Slot is up and running.

“We love the idea of parents bringing their kids in and sharing those games from their childhood with their kids now,” says Erica Pierson.

Twenty-three-year-old Jordan Bennett is trying her hand at some Pac Man. Jordan was born a little too late for the video arcade era.

She had access to an old Pac Man game in her neighborhood, but the Coin Slot is the first place she’s ever seen Donkey Kong, Galaga or Moon Patrol.

“I think it’s awesome,” she says. “I can’t remember the last time we had an arcade in town like this. This is so cool.”