Rusty Quarters arcade facing renewed financial troubles, begins second donation drive in year

Categories: Business
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"Lots of people love Rusty Quarters, but if they don't play, we can't exist," Annie Spirtos told City Pages last year. That comment still holds true.
:::: UPDATE :::: Rusty Quarters Arcade meets fundraising goal with hours to spare, will stay open

Annie and Sage Spirtos -- the wife-and-husband owners and operators of Lyn-Lake's Rusty Quarters Retro Arcade -- would prefer people come to 818 West Lake Street and spend their money playing games. But since that hasn't happened as much as they need it to in recent months, they've again turned to a donation drive in hopes of keeping their fledgling business open.

SEE ALSO: Rusty Quarters' donation drive raises $3,000, keeps arcade alive

For the second time in a calendar year, Annie and Sage need to meet a fundraising goal on a tight deadline. Last year, they successfully raised $3,000 between May and June. This year, they're hoping to raise $8,000 by the end of May. If they can't do it, they say they'll have no choice but to close.

Rusty Quarters finds itself in financial trouble once again despite raising the price of games from 25 cents to 50 cents a little less than a year ago. In a lengthy note published Saturday on Indiegogo, the Spirtoses blame their current plight on cold winter, slow foot traffic, and high rent.

"Unfortunately for us to stay open, we need to call on our neighbors for help," they write. Here's the note in its entirety:
Dear Friends,

Everyday is a fun day for us. We always get to see new faces walk through our doors, excited to see the glowing screens and hear the pew-pew noises from each arcade and pinball machine. It's fun to make new friends that remember playing these arcade games when they were a kid or watching parents with their little ones, huddled over a game and cheering with their son or daughter as they jump that barrel, stomp on the turtle, or shoot that last spaceship.

We always hear you guys and gals cheer, "Thank you for doing this, for opening up in my neighborhood."... And we always respond with, "Hey if it wasn't for you guys showing up, we wouldn't have a fun place for you guys to hang out".

But the way things are going, Rusty Quarters might have shut our doors forever.

Recently we've seen a drastic decline in attendance. Drastic enough that it is affecting our day-to-day business. Some of this is due to the recent moody weather (warm/cold/warm/snow/cold). Some is due to a newer and more fancy arcade that recently opened up in the MPLS area. And some may be just for the fact that the novelty of bringing a retro video arcade back to life has just faded by way of the dinosaur...

We are currently in a high rent lease, locked in for almost 2 more years (lease is up in 11/2014). We started this labor of love with a very small shoestring budget. We have spent every penny to keep us open. We've sold cars, tiki mugs, shirts, and every other personal bauble to keep this place going. We've looked into second jobs to make ends meet but are shut down with words like, "You're overqualified" or "I can't hire someone that's just going to quit right after their business picks up". We have exhausted all of our savings and because of slow attendance we've been a bit shy of the rent for a few months, leaving us in the red with our landlords for $8,000 in compiled back rent...

The fact is that THE RENT IS JUST TOO DAMN HIGH! We've tried our best get a Small Business loan but have been denied at every turn. (Turns out, you have to have money to borrow money) And it turns out that we are too small of retail space for a food/alcohol license. All we can do is try our best to get better attendance and keep Rusty Quarters open for 2 more years until we can find a larger place with cheaper rent, a proper HVAC system, running water and a grill.

Bottom Line, if business doesn't pick up soon for Rusty Quarters, we will have to close our doors June 1st.

In conjunction with asking for donations, we just hope that if you get bored around the house, had a hard day at work, need to do something fun with the kids, or just need a cheap date night, you'll decide to stop by your neighborhood arcade and spend a couple of quarters. Relax with fan favorites such as Donkey Kong, Galaga, Rampage, Ms. Pac-Man, Tekken, etc. Also, keep us in mind for your next birthday party or event. Revenue from those activities make up for those slow days...

But if you really want to help us out, we're willing to make it worth your while with a list of Donation Perks which may be found on the right of the screen. Even though we've set our perks to $5 Donations, you are welcome to donate as much as you want.

Also, please join our Facebook page and spread the word to your friends and family that there is a fun place in town to spend your afternoon/evening.

We do understand that this is our second donation drive (we needed your help back in 04/12) and would like to thank everyone in the past that has help to keep us open through these hard economic times. Once again time are tough for us at Rusty Quarters and hope with your continue support of our business, we'll be here for your retro video game needs for years to come.

We're not asking for all of your hard earned money. All we're asking for are your spare quarters, which believe it or not truly add up. With your continued support of this neighborhood small business, we'll keep you guys playing with new games in a kid safe and clean environment... And with a little luck, we'll be able to clear up present issues with our landlord.

Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you soon!

Annie (Boss Lady) & Sage (The Rube) Spirtos
Rusty Quarters Retro Arcade & Museum
818 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55408
After the first day of the fundraising drive, Annie and Sage had already raised $557, or roughly seven percent of their 60-day goal.

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Well, they did it, more than $8,500 is coming to the proprietors of RQ thanks to charity. 

I want such a place to succeed, but it still bothers me that it will take a constant act of charity to keep playable Frogger and Rampage machines available. 

This will not be the last time this independent, local business will ask for a handout, I guarantee it. They need $8K to keep the doors open, and last year the Rube complained that traffic dropped off significantly when the weather got lousy. We haven't even had spring yet, so what are the odds RQ stays out of the red this summer. Perhaps word of mouth has helped build a bigger customer base and that will help the proprietors break even this summer, but I'm skeptical. 

It's nice to have a place to play Donkey Kong. Other than maybe Insert Coins (I've never been there) I don't know where you can play DK. Is keeping a publicly playable DK, and other such machines, really worth more than $11,000? 

Face it, if you want to play Ms. Pac-Man (which I can find at an occasional bar), Dig Dug and Mario Bros., you're going to have to continue to subsidize this business, wherever they're located. It's not a viable business.

By the way, how many local businesses are you willing to subsidize just so they can stay open? I wish you all would have dumped money into Liberty Custard in order to keep that open.


Zap Arcade in Jordan is awesome. $5 for all day play, snacks and pop available for purchase. It's a bit of a drive, but it's totally worth it.

There's also some scuttlebutt about a retro arcade opening in North Saint Paul in the coming months, I'm looking forward to that!


Does it come to anyone as a surprise that less than a year after a $3,000 campaign, there is now an $8,000 plea? 

People love the nostalgia, to a point. The reality is: how many of us want to play Donkey Kong or Dig Dug in an arcade on a weekly basis? Lots of machines to play, but I have zero interest in Joust... never did, still don't. 

It's nice that people want to support a "small business." Are people prepared to shell out money again? First it was $3K. Now it's $8K. How much next time? And if RQ survives until its lease is up, what assurance do we have that the ownership doesn't cut its losses. Sure, the rent may be cheaper elsewhere, but that's no guarantee it's going to be a money making enterprise. 

And forget about food and drink. The cost to run that crap is too much to warrant adding it to a retro arcade. Stick to soda and candy. 

Call me crazy: it's a doomed business. Time has proven it to be. 

 If you are prepared to pony up toward the $8K this time, be prepared to do so again. 

digitalprotocol topcommenter

why did arcades fold in the first place?

digitalprotocol topcommenter

ya it sucks...i grew up in arcades. Pops, golden nugget(the best)

i think most of your games suck. i get that the games we love probably dont exist as arcades went extinct faster than the dinosaurs

all small business are dying, sorry bud

blame technology, blame people

until you get some games that i want to play i will not return 

metal slug is your best 

get killer instinct, get fkn lethal enforcers

start5 selling weed


Guys, your business plan is obviously flawed. Better luck next time. 

Evan Walde
Evan Walde

Perhaps they should consider some marketing. Had never even heard of the place.


When the weather got nice, I should have said. Damn multi-tasking.


@4331 I'm aware of Zap Arcade. Given its location, there's no way it can be run as a for-profit enterprise. Maybe I'm wrong. 

Seems to me that the it's tougher than ever to make a profit out of an "arcade." Even in the 80s arcades died off within a few years of their peak. They didn't all go away, but a lot of them folded before 1990. There were really only a few good years. 

Some day I will make a trek down there just to see what they have to offer, hopefully before they go out of business. 

I expect that Rusty Quarters is going to be a ghost soon.


@sigh I don't want to start a dialogue, debate, argument or trash campaign about how incompetent, ignorant, moronic, etc...we are. It's really easy to armchair quarterback but what a lot of people don't know, understand or won't accept is 

1) in 2009 we signed a 5 year lease on this space with a 3rd partner. 

2) in Jan 2011 aforementioned business partner walked away, moved back to CA, (after trashing our reputation) forced the liquidation of said business and left us holding a 5 year lease that our landlord would not let us out of. Why look for a new tenant when you have the current tenant on the hook for another four years? 

3) We had 30 days to come up with a plan to keep revenue coming in. We reinvented ourselves but stayed in the retail vein. Between closing the 1st and opening the 2nd we had  3 months of downtime (dissolving one LLC, starting another LLC, buying inventory, waiting for permits & licenses etc.) with $0 revenue. We opened the new store which was fair to middling...everyone couldn't wait to do their holiday shopping at our cute little shop...but as a rule retail is completely dead after the holiday season, so with the success of the games we had brought in as a fluke overshadowing the retail angle we started over again. 

4) This time permits, licensing, LLC name change, etc. took another 3 months. That's 3 months of $0 revenue again. We opened RQ on a shoestring budget with the last of what money we had. I won't even go into the fact that I broke my leg the night before we opened and spent 6 months in a wheelchair.  We opened with 19 arcade cabinets. In the year since we've opened we're up to 27 cabs and 3 pins. 

We're making just enough to keep the lights on but one bad week F**KS our whole month. We have no cushion, no safety net, no magical grant or loan. 

We also can't expand our services to include real food or liquor since we are LITERALLY SHACKLED TO A 1300sf SPACE THAT HAS NO RUNNING WATER. 

Right now it's all about survival for the next year and 8 months. 

You think we don't want to serve food, have a lounge area where you can play console games by the hour, buy ad space and market the HELL out our business. There is SO MUCH more we want to do. 

If every one of our 2800 Facebook fans spent just $5/month in the arcade we would be golden...but that doesn't happen so we count on the weekends and cross our fingers every week that we can keep the doors open for 20 more months. 


@KingMichael I don't believe he's intending to run the arcade as a for-profit business in and of itself. He's got a recording studio and (I believe) a web design firm in the same building, so he's got a solid business plan: Don't rely on quarters from arcade games.



Your core problem is simply that you signed the lease. You. No matter who else is involved, who did what, or what the state of your businesses has been or currently is, YOU signed the lease. Did you meet with anyone who might have tried to help you prior to starting up any of the 3 businesses you've tried? Did you take advice, really listen and heed said advice, from anyone who has their own business or wanted to try to help? Personally, I'm amazed you have the money to burn through like this, most people simply don't have access to this kind of start-up cash for 3 different businesses. From first-hand experience with my own business, I know what is involved, and it isn't cheap.

A lot of smaller shops don't get your kind of coverage in the media. In fact, most of us don't. You should be extremely grateful for that, but instead you continue to say that it isn't enough, that you need more handouts just because, well, you own a business. In my time running my shop, I've seen other places come and go with a lot...a LOT...less fanfare and no public pleading. Don't sugarcoat it, when it comes down to it, you're asking for free money so you don't have to own up to your own decisions.

Stop blaming outside forces for your problems. You are probably nice people personally, but it's time to really decide what you want to do going forward. 3000 one year, 8000 the goodwill public funding? You need to answer this question totally on your own...what's next?


@aespirtos1 Rather sad.... you do all that work and earn enough to keep the lights on. You don't take in enough for a hot meal twice a day? You two must be famished.


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