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Friday, May 17, 2024

Game on: Arcade and bar opens in downtown Wilmington

Downtown Rally Point Bar and Arcade is a locally owned and operated facility on Walnut Street. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — The sounds of hockey pucks clanking into a tabletop goal and skeeballs rolling along individual alleys into a swirl of points welcome passersby along Walnut and Third streets in downtown Wilmington.

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The new Rally Point Bar and Arcade is now offering games ready to entertain players. Kevin Ullman and Andrew Hargrove low-key opened the first floor of a planned two-story, 4,000-square-foot facility at the beginning of month before making its grand debut Oct. 14.

“The number of people who came through exceeded our expectations,” Ullman told Port City Daily Wednesday. “I was pretty taken aback.”

More so, the various demographics remained surprising. Families brought their kids in the afternoon and elders played an old-school game of air hockey early evening. College students aplenty kept the games going late into the evening. 

Rally Point has skeeball, Pong, beer pong, Duck Hunter, a Walking Dead shooter game, classic Pac-Man, Key Master, and a photo booth to capture memories of high-score nights. It also contains punching bags and basketball.

“We’re waiting on another air hockey table, some racing and fighting games,” Ullman said. 

Hyper Pitch has been one of the most popular so far. The baseball game tracks speed and the more accurate throws one makes, higher points are received.

Patrons add currency to a game card at the bar’s kiosk and then tap to play. Prizes aren’t given for high scores, only bragging rights. Though the claw machine does contain plush toys, basketballs and some mystery eggs, either filled with cash or a game card.

A 12-to-15-foot bar offers all of the expected offerings: draft, bottle and canned beers, with full ABC permits allowing mixed drinks. There are special Bulkhead bombs as well, part of Ullman’s other business. A former Marine, Ullman co-founded veteran-owned Bulkhead Energy Drinks, with products available in bottle shops and on military bases in North Carolina, Florida and California.

At Rally Point, patrons can get their favorite shot dropped into a Bulkhead.

Ullman has always wanted to own an arcade bar, having been to plenty during his travels in the military. He appreciates their appeal for multiple occasions: breaking the ice on a first date, having a night out with friends, and enjoying time with kids. The establishment is kid-friendly until 7 p.m. daily.

“I know there are some bars like this that have a few games and do events or have live bands,” he said. “I wanted to create something that was strictly to play games — a legit arcade. I thought that’s what Wilmington was missing.”

He said upon pursuing the small business, he wasn’t aware that another venue downtown was considering the same plan. Game Over Bar and Arcade was slated to come to the corner of Dock and Front streets in the former City Limits Saloon and even launched a crowd-funding source, but plans seemingly have stalled.

Though Ullman doesn’t have bar or restaurant management experience, his business partner does. Hargrove has worked at numerous downtown establishments, including Goodfellas, and owns a pressure-washing business.

“He’s worked in the service industry for many years,” Ullman said. “He’s the one I lean on, as far as knowing the ins and outs.” 

The two entered a rental agreement at 214 Walnut Street in December 2022. They wanted to be downtown and easy to access from places such as Live Oak Bank Pavilion, Wilson Center and Dead Crow Comedy Room to the north or downtown proper’s numerous restaurants to the south and Brooklyn Arts District to the east.  

“So when people are moving between establishments, we catch their eye,” Ullman said.

The bar owners have opened 2,000 square feet so far as they continue to renovate another 2,000 square feet upstairs. The full space was a blank canvas, according to Ullman: “We walked in and it was just white walls, wide open.”

The goal was to have both floors open at launch, but the two faced some setbacks in finding the right contractor to meet their needs. 

“When you’re starting something new, you have growing pains,” Ullman said.

They have begun demoing the upstairs area, which will be called the Retro Lounge. It will have a second bar, with pool tables, pinball machines, foosball, classic arcade games, and a vintage throwback living room. 

“We will have Nintendo 64 and classic Nintendo console games, so people can come and grab a drink, sit down in a living room and play the games they’re familiar with from childhood, like old times,” Ullman said.

Upon completion, there will be hundreds of games.

Currently, Hargrove is managing day-to-day operations and six bartenders have been hired to serve customers.

Rally Point is open Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight and until 2 a.m. on Friday. On Saturday, it opens at 2 p.m. and closes at 2 a.m., and on Sunday it opens at 12:30 p.m. and closes at 2 a.m.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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