Downtown Durham is set for a new bar-arcade combination as Quarter Horse Arcade prepares to open in the basement of the Kress Building.
The bar, which will be heavily focused on 1980s nostalgia, hopes to open by June 1, said owners Jon Williams and Brandon Mise, who are doing most of the renovations on their own.
The bar will feature about 35 arcade games, a D.J. and a full bar.
Most of the arcade games featured come from the 1980s — with special attention given to those made before 1984 — and all the music played at the bar will come from the nearly 2,000 copies of vinyl records Mise has collected.
The idea for Quarter Horse originally came out of Mise’s own obsession with arcade games.
Mise is, in a way, professionalizing his habit of collecting arcade games, which he has done for many years. Instead of buying expensive games for friends and family to use, he decided he could expand his love for collecting games by opening an arcade of his own.
“It’s just unbelievable that I can own the game that I used to beg my parents for money to play,” he said. “Most of the games I have are ones that I love as a kid, and the music is all music that we all grew up with in the ‘80s. It’s a total nostalgia drive.”
Both Mise and Williams say they love pinball the most of all arcade games. But the bar also will have several video games, including the original Star Wars arcade game from the early ’80s and Dragon’s Lair, a 1983 game from the animator Don Bluth. Mise calls Dragon’s Lair his proudest acquisition.
“What we originally thought was going to be $20,000 to $40,000 for games ended up being around $100,000,” Williams said with a laugh. “I was like, you’re going to spend all your money before we even open.”
It’s been a long process to find the right space in downtown for Quarter Horse. Originally, the longtime friends purchased space on East Chapel Hill Street, but they were forced to cancel the lease there in 2015 after some logistical problems with the space.
The arcade-obsessed duo scoured downtown for about a year for a good location until late last year when they came across the basement space at the Kress Building.
The space needed a lot of renovations, but it also came in a central part of Main Street. A third partner, Murphy Turner, is a carpenter and is helping them with the renovation of the basement space.
In addition to Quarter Horse, the Kress Building is undergoing a fair amount of change. The facade of the building is being renovated, and American Underground recently opened the co-working space Gridworks Durham there.
“After we signed the lease, I was driving by and DPAC had just let out and there were lines of people walking past the space,” Mise said. “And I thought, that is just perfect.”