Rare Drops re-opens, provides gamers with arcade room and new amenities

Retro video game store Rare Drops re-opened its doors Saturday in downtown Huntington, presenting shoppers with a brand new experience, complete with an in-shop arcade.

Rare Drops was set to open Oct. 31, 2014, but shift manager AJ Mallory said that opening was held back due to some unforeseen circumstances.

“The city of Huntington messed up our paperwork and cops came and shut us down on opening day,” AJ Mallory said. “We got to open up the very next week and still we celebrate our anniversary Oct. 31. We always have a big Halloween event the Saturday before or after Halloween to celebrate. It’s a great story, it’ll be even greater years and years down the line when we can be like ‘ahh, look at how successful we are, remember that time the cops shut us down when we tried to open?’”

Running Rare Drops is very much a family event. AJ Mallory and his brother Evan Mallory both work at the store, which their father Baxter Mallory wanted to start in order to give his sons a different opportunity.

“His exact words were he wanted to give his boys an option of doing something other than saying ‘would you like fries with that?’” AJ Mallory said.

AJ Mallory first started working at Rare Drops after what he called “the first major incident.”

“The roof completely caved in due to some crazy flooding,” AJ Mallory said. “That was around March or February 2015. That was our first big mishap. We always have one big mishap a year. Next year, got robbed. But hey, you know, we try to keep it to one catastrophe a year and that’s alright.”

Rare Drops has stayed open throughout various incidents, no matter how big or small they are. Visitors can buy, sell, trade and get their video games repaired in-store, as well as buy consoles, controllers and other collectables and accessories. The store’s re-opening comes with a new layout with a more open storefront, a Pokemon gym and an arcade featuring six working machines.

“It flows so much better in there,” AJ Mallory said. “It really does feel like it’s a much more open and welcoming space. When you walk in, you don’t feel this sense of clutter or claustrophobia. Before this, sometimes I would look at people and someone would walk by them and they’d feel like they were in the way and they’d leave. This really opens it up so they have not only more inventory to look at, but it’s easier for us to help them find what they’re looking for.”

The Pokemon gym is one of the newest features of the store. Visitors can play the Pokemon trading card game, as well as buy single cards and booster packs. They can also play various Pokemon handheld video games. Pokemon Professors are present to act as referees for tournaments hosted at Rare Drops.

“You have to meet certain requirements to be a professor,” AJ Mallory said. “You have to take a test and you have to be certified by the Pokemon Trading Company. There is actually a local Pokemon league — they all have their teams set up with their specific gym types. They have theme teams and everything and it’ll be like a little event you can do — you can train your team and battle gym leaders and earn their specific badges.”

The arcade has been planned since the opening of Rare Drops.

AJ Mallory said for him and his family, running the business is a lot about community and providing shoppers with a great experience. The idea started when a business associate left “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machines at the store for workers to play while they weren’t busy at the store. From there, AJ Mallory said they started to collect more machines, when the idea for an arcade started to blossom.

Some of the current machines include “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” a Playchoice Box featuring usually up to five games and a Neo-Geo machine featuring 161-in-1 games. The arcade room also features a Playstation and Playstation 3, with rotating games chosen by the staff members. The room also has three televisions, each hooked up with a Wii U, featuring games like “Super Smash Brothers” and “Mario Kart,” and one with a Playstation 4.

Among all of the new amenities Rare Drops has to offer its visitors, AJ Mallory said he thinks personality is one of the most drawing factors of the store.

“The internet gives you the option to get anything you want — its at your fingertips,” AJ Mallory said. “Going out and shopping for something physically adds a different level to the experience. You get to get a different level of comfort. Here, we personally look at every individual item and we vet it. We don’t sell people anything that’s crap because we don’t want you to come back and tell us that what we sold you was crap. It is 100 percent pride driven. We hate selling you dirty games or scratched games to the point that we polish every single game that comes in, it’s factored into the price — you pay a dollar or two more, but you have an industrial machine polished”

AJ Mallory said that quality guarantee keeps customers coming back to the store — customers who have been nothing but receptive to the changes.

“You get the experience of holding something in your hands before you buy it,” AJ Mallory said. “Plus, you get the comedy stylings of Evan, AJ and Baxter Mallory and that never fails.”

Rare Drops is at 1117 4th Avenue and is open Monday through Thursday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The store is closed Sunday.

Players can pay $1 an hour for the arcade, $2 all day Monday through Thursday and $3 for all day access Friday and Saturday.

Will Izzo can be contacted at [email protected]