Galaxy of Games: District Company creates pinball, arcade wonderland
James Johonnott, photos by Andrea Paulseth |
Roughly a year ago the District Company, Eau Claire’s hot spot for hobby gaming downtown, moved and expanded. A year later, the game store seems to show no signs of slowing down. “It’s always been our goal to create a family-friendly, accessible space,” said Tim Sexton, owner of The District Company, 315 Graham Ave. “And we’ve recently partnered with Old School Pinball & Arcade to take that to the next level.”
“It’s always been our goal to create a family-friendly, accessible space. And we’ve recently partnered with Old School Pinball & Arcade to take that to the next level.” – Tim Sexton, owner, The District Company
Old School Pinball & Arcade, a retro and classic game arcade in Grimes, Iowa, has created a number of new gaming areas at the District Company. “It was my goal to bring back the arcades of my youth,” said Jason Shiffer, owner of Old School Pinball & Arcade. Originally an arcade machine restoration hobbyist, Jason took the leap to expand his enterprise and create his first location. With the District Company looking to expand its family-friendly offerings and fill a niche not being filled downtown, Old School worked with them to feature a host of arcade games and pinball machines. “We want to bring fun back to downtown,” Jason explained.
Because of this partnership, the rooms and gallery on the District Company’s first floor are now host to truly old-school, classic arcade games, including everything from Galaga and Gods of War to Pac-Man and Mortal Kombat. A wall of modern and classic pinball machines rounds out the collection. All of these nostalgic machines are either fresh out of the box or beautifully, lovingly restored by Jason himself.
The family-friendly atmosphere is reinforced by the District Company’s kitchen, which opened in January and now provides classic fare such as burgers, hot dogs, mac and cheese bites, and more to hungry guests and gamers. Next to the fridges stocked full of sodas, cafe-style seating offers guests a place to grab a bite over a board game.
A multiplayer Guitar Hero station setup inside of a sound booth lets you rock out at high volume without affecting the vibe for other gamers. A team-up with Punch Out Gaming, a Minnesota-based video game retailer, now allows the District Company to stock, sell, buy, and trade classic video games and systems from yesteryear, as well as newer titles on the PS4 and Xbox One.
On the second floor, guests can find an even broader selection of board games, face off in the console gaming room, or dive into the immersive experience of the The District Company’s Virtual Reality room, which lets gamers try the newest VR experiences and games.
All of this is offered to guests for an all-day, free-play pass that costs $15 for adults or $13 for kids. This includes access to the Guitar Hero sound booth, all of the arcade and pinball machines, and the console and virtual reality game rooms. They also offer a birthday party package for kids. “It’s a great place to host events,” Jason said. “The games appeal to all ages, and it’s a lot easier to keep track of kids in the smaller space.”
The District Company also caters to Eau Claire’s hobby gamers. The retail space on the upper floor is stocked with cards, miniatures, books and more for Magic the Gathering, Pokémon, Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer, and beyond. The space hosts tournaments and even has a workshop set up for crafters to work on their miniatures. It also hosts a variety of events for gamers of all ages and interests. They’ve teamed up with Clear Water Comedy to bring gaming-themed trivia nights to the District Company. There are free board game meet-up nights on Wednesdays, and they recently hosted a Dungeons and Dragons themed fitness event at Anytime Fitness.
Gamergy, the District Company’s locally owned and operated energy drink, has also taken off over the last year. The drink sets itself apart from most energy drinks by containing no caffeine or aspartame, It contains only 40 calories and 10 grams of sugar per bottle, and is fortified with B6, B12, and D-Ribose. “We wanted to create something energizing and fun but with ingredients you could actually pronounce,” Sexton explained. Gamergy is now distributed in more than 200 game stores across the Midwest and Southwest, reaching as far as San Diego, as well as at Woodman’s and Gordy’s Market in Eau Claire.
Fresh off of another period of expansion and development, The District Company has its eyes looking forward. “We always have our sights set on opportunities for growth,” Sexton said.
The District Company • 315 Graham Ave., Eau Claire • (715) 598-1706 •