Westwood has its own video game district, thanks to the addition of businesses Wondercade and Game N Groove, which both opened this summer. Wondercade is a “retro-future” arcade packed with classic and contemporary video games and pinball machines and is open to all ages until 9 p.m., with food and adult beverages available. Game N Groove buys and sells used video games, movies and music — including classic and vintage items. The two businesses are neighbors, suddenly making Westwood a premium destination for gamers of any age. This is part of a promising trend for the neighborhood due to the resurgence of new businesses that are opening up in once-vacant storefronts.
Leslie and Bill Rich, owners of Wondercade, moved to Westwood together 18 years ago and began to amass their own collection of arcade cabinets. It all started with Space Invaders. Asteroids came soon afterward. Then a pinball machine. After four or five game cabinets were under their roof, the idea of opening their own arcade came up more and more in conversation.
As time went on, Leslie and Bill began to visit arcades to see how they operated and figure out how they’d like to run their own. One of the biggest problems they encountered with many of the arcades was that children were not allowed inside, which seemed counterintuitive since video games were originally marketed to kids and teens. So when the time came for them to open their establishment, they decided it would be for the whole family. While most newly opened arcades seem to be bars first and arcades second, Wondercade operates as an arcade that happens to serve food and drinks — boozy, if you’d like.
“We found that was a huge niche that wasn’t being served,” Bill says. “What we wanted to bring to the neighborhood was somewhere you could bring your family and feel safe.”
“(Parents) want to share this experience with their kids and, here's the thing, a lot of people think that kids won't like these (vintage) games,” Bill continues. “Totally wrong. Good games are good games, no matter how old they are.”
Inside, the arcade games are punctuated by neon lights, and the air is full of friendly electronic blips and melodies. Wondercade’s building was previously Keidel Supply’s main showroom for plumbing supplies, vacant for a decade before the Rich family renovated everything.
“It's been great to see people experience the space the way that we thought that they would,” Leslie says. “To have a place where everyone can come and build that gaming community in person after being separated for over a year (due to the pandemic) has been really a joy. I am excited to see folks of all ages come together, because I think this is one of the few spots where people who are unified by the love of gaming can interact intergenerationally.”
There’s a solid mix of classic, old-school arcade games at Wondercade — Gauntlet, Missile Command and the like — alongside more modern titles such as Killer Queen. Admission is a flat $8 — rising to $10 in 2022 — which gives you access to the arcade all day (kids 5 and under are free). If you want to leave the arcade but come back later — say, to get dinner at Nation Kitchen & Bar’s Westwood restaurant or grab a few more beers at West Side Brewing down the street — you can gain reentry with a handstamp.
After 9 p.m., the arcade caters to ages 18 and up, so make sure to ditch those kids before you save Earth from pixelated space invaders. Wondercade, 3143 Harrison Ave., Westwood, wondercadecincy.com.
Game N Groove
Right next door to Wondercade is a new retail shop where you can buy, trade and sell used video games, movies, music and more. This store didn’t open next to the arcade coincidentally, either. Business owner Kelon Buncher credits Bill Rich for the idea to move in.
“My wife grew up in Delhi and had brought it up one day to look around the West Side (to open a business),” Buncher says. “As I was looking around, I met Bill Rich from Wondercade.”
Buncher and his business partner, Max Vignola, met with Bill, who gave them a tour of the arcade before it was open for business.
“He then mentioned, ‘You know the building next door is up for rent. You guys would complement the arcade perfectly,’ And that was it,” Buncher says. ‘You can just see the potential of the Westwood Business District and all of the work that has already gone into making it a beautiful neighborhood from the existing businesses.”
The layout of Game N Groove has you enter right by the register counter. From there you can go forward and take a right into their vintage game section where you’ll find everything from Intellivision and Game Boy to Sega CD games and consoles, with loads of golden-age Nintendo games packed into one tiny alcove.
Pressing on, you can browse the modern disc-based games and consoles for sale. There are sample consoles hooked up to TVs if you want to play whichever games staff members chose for the day.
The largest room is dedicated to Game N Groove’s massive DVD collection. This is the place to find that random season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer you’ve been looking for to complete your shrine to Sarah Michelle Gellar (and who isn’t?). Game N Groove’s VHS collection shares a room with all the music media for now, while the team builds out a dedicated music room that’s still under construction.
“The neighborhood is awesome. It’s been a great and welcoming experience,” Buncher says. “Westwood is a fun neighborhood.”
Westwood is a lot more fun of a neighborhood these days, thanks in part to all these video games. Game N Groove, 3139 Harrison Ave., Westwood, facebook.com/gameNgroove.