Walk into Game On, a tiny video game store in the Mendenhall Valley, and you’re likely to be swept up in a wave of nostalgia.
Original Nintendo games like Jurassic Park and Carmen San Diego line the racks on the walls. A Sega system from the ‘80s — control stick and all — is on display in the middle of the store in its original box, next to a Mega Box Odyssey 2 game system from 1976. The Ataris is on a workbench in the back.
“It’s really cute when some of the older customers come around the corner, and they cry when they see the Ataris,” Casey Harris said.
Casey Harris, 27, and Emily Harris, 26, recently opened the video game store in the Airport Mini Mall & Apartments strip mall on Glacier Highway. Today is the store’s grand opening.
They’re self-proclaimed nerds — pointing out the fact that they were both wearing gaming T-shirts and sweaters during a recent interview. Casey sported a Minecraft shirt and Fallout 3 hoodie; Emily, a grey hoodie with a single red and white stripe down her right arm.
“This stripe is very iconic,” she said. “This is the military designation of Commander Shepard, the hero that you play in Mass Effect.”
The young married couple — Emily is originally from Juneau, moved away when she was 5 but returned every summer until she was 18, and Casey is originally from Spokane, Washington — is basically selling off their personal video game collection. They’re both lifelong gamers, and their collection is massive.
“We left all of our video games in Idaho, and shipped them up to Juneau on a pallet (when they moved back here in 2014),” Casey said. “It was 650 pounds of games.”
Casey said they used to joke with their friends that they should open a video game shop. Then, they stopped joking and got serious when they had a child two years ago. They made a series of small commitments to get the business going — buying game controllers and equipment — then a series of big commitments. Their efforts culminated with a soft opening two weeks ago.
So far, it’s been going great, they said, and customers young and old have been stopping by the shop to see what’s inside.
“Just the other day,” Casey said, “we had an 8-year-old kid come by and buy a bunch of original Nintendo games to play.”
“Games that we played when we were kids,” Emily said.
“We want our old stuff to be playable,” she added. “That’s our goal.”
The couple isn’t just banking on nostalgia to sell video games. They also have newer systems for sale, such as Wii U, and more modern games.
They also do repairs for gaming systems, controllers and disc resurfacing. They are the only ones who have disc resurfacers in Southeast Alaska, they said. That means people who have scratched or damaged CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs can bring them in for repair.
“Scratched, scuffed, gouged, we can fix it — as long as it’s not cracked or chipped,” Casey said.
They strongly believe there’s a market for a video game store in Juneau. One of the only places in town that sells video games is Fred Meyer, but Emily said the big box store only offers new games and rarely marks them down. The only other option in Juneau are the pawn shops, and Casey said games there aren’t priced well for what they are.
Their biggest competition, they said, is the internet. They plan to compete with internet sales by basically charging internet rates themselves, plus a small markup.
“That’s basically giving them away,” Casey said, adding they hope to make up for it with high volume.
Once the business gets established in a year or two, the Harris’ want to also offer a mailing service for Southeast, similar to how Netflix mails out DVDs.
“If you’re in the smallest village and you’ve got a little generator and you want to play a Wii, we’ll ship to in the near future to have a gaming system set up in the store, so customers can come in and play games for a small fee. They also plan on accepting trade-ins.
In the meantime, they’re hoping people stop by and see games — new and old — and try one out.
“It gives you an opportunity to see and do things that you might not be able to do in your everyday life,” Emily said of video games and why she loves them. “It inserts you in a situation, where with a movie you may not get that level of interaction.”
• Contact Juneau Empire Deputy Editor Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
KNOW & GO
What: Game On
Where: 9310 Glacier Highway, Suite 103, Airport Mini Mall & Apartments strip mall, between Valley Restaurant and Best Western Country Lane Inn
Note: There’s extra parking on the side and behind the strip mall
Hours: 11-6 p.m. every day. The owners said they will likely drop down a day after the grand opening. Check out their Facebook page later for more information: https://www.facebook.com/gameonalaska/
Phone number: 500-8860
Website: Still being developed, but you can check it out at www.gameonalaska.com