Upping the Game
Plattsburgh Pub Revives Arcade Experience
Lights flash on the wall and video game theme music plays over speakers. A map from the Lord of the Rings franchise displaying Middle Earth hangs high above the bar. An entire wall is dedicated to Pac-Man, painted as if the game were being played on the sheetrock. Walking through the doors of 1Up Arcade & Pub is like stepping through a portal to the 1980s.
For the past 10 years, owner Jill James’ husband and his best friend had been buying cheap, broken entertainment systems online. With a background in engineering, they would take the arcade cabinets home, fix them up and give them a new life. The James’ collection now contains more than 30 cabinets, with games like Tetris, Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger and Golden Tee.
Soon, the games piled up and they ran out of space.
“We started collecting more and more of them to the point where we ran out of room at our house; we had to get a storage unit,” James said.
That’s when the idea for an arcade and restaurant began.
On May 13, 2022, 1Up opened its doors, showcasing their refurbished cabinet games. Patrons can choose from 16 draft beers and enjoy classic pub fare, including specialty burgers, pizza and cheesesteaks.
Cabinet arcade games hit their peak popularity in the 1980s, the most popular being Pac-Man. Although arcades can still be found, the games look different today. The old school cabinet games have steadily been replaced by newer, more advanced ones.
Older games, however, have recently been popularized as trends turn back towards vintage ’80s and ’90s.
James decided that Plattsburgh was a perfect location to start her new business. She wanted to draw in not only people she knew already, but also those from the community and college students as well.
“We have the college kids that are finding us; our regulars range in age from Gen X to Millennials,” James said. “People my parents’ age come in with their grandkids. People my age come in with their kids.”
Many 1Up customers are people that James knows and has been able to attract via word of mouth. They have been struggling to get the word out about their restaurant. With better marketing and more customers, they hope to expand 1Up to more locations, maybe one day hitting the road.
“We want to expand.” James said. “My husband is always saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could open up a food truck and travel somewhere and to have a bus with arcade cabinets?’”
Whether 1Up is on the road or still tucked away at 22 Brinkerhoff St., James will continue to blend her passion for vintage cabinet games and pub food.