Sister-brother team open ‘fun center’
A whimsical “fun center” in a corner suite of Minden’s Ironwood Center has been described by its owner in a single phrase: “It gives the kids something to do.”
“We decided to open a business together, and the first thought that came to both our minds was that there’s nothing for the kids to do here,” said Gardnerville resident Sue Willis, co-owner of Whimsical Games.
Willis and brother/business partner Rick Reeves officially opened the center on June 2.
“I think it’s a market that’s totally ignored,” said Reeves, who lives in Dayton. “I came out here in 1999, and there was nothing around for the kids to do.”
The 2,300-square-foot suite, formerly Video Library, has been filled with arcade games, pool tables, foosball, vending machines, tables, chairs, board games, and, as the centerpiece, a 120-foot radio-controlled car track that curls in a figure-eight.
The latter feature warrants a story of its own.
“It was a slot-car track,” said Willis. “We drove to Iowa to get it and spent the winter modifying it, so that it could run RC cars instead of slot cars. We had to fill in all the slots, paint it, and put in the retaining wall.”
“It actually took two to three redesigns to get it to where it wouldn’t launch cars into the air,” said Reeves. “We can run eight cars at a time. We have 32 cars that we rotate. They do tend to break.”
On two peg-boards hang trigger controllers for the cars. Above the track is a flatscreen television used to monitor the races.
“There’s a sensor under the track counting the laps and lap times,” said Reeves. “Each car has a transponder on it. The kids can actually see how much time they have left and who’s in the lead.”
The brother-and-sister team bring disparate but mutually beneficial skills to their new center.
Reeves, 56, spent 20 years in information technology, so he knows his way around gadgetry.
Willis, 51, who has lived in the Gardnerville Ranchos for 22 years, worked as a bookkeeper most of her life. She also raised three sons and one daughter, all Douglas High grads, so she knows how to entertain bored children.
“This took about two years to come together,” she said. “We thought of doing miniature golf, but the kids didn’t seem into it. We thought about doing laser tag, but we couldn’t find a place big enough.”
The sibling duo concluded that RC racing and arcade games would make a good first step into the market.
“The kids really seem to like it, but it’s slow-going getting the word out,” Willis said.
The partners have been trying to spread the word at the movie theater in the same complex.
“Our first customer was a 3-year-old,” Reeves said. “But we have several developing groups of regulars. Some are in their early teens, and some are already driving cars.”
“Adults seem to like it, too,” added Willis.
Willis and Reeves hope to generate enough business to expand their hours of operation and also rent out the suite for parties.
“We can squeeze two or three more arcade machines in here, but we want to see what the kids want,” said Reeves.
Located at 1770 Highway 395, Unit C, Minden, Whimsical Games is open 2-10 p.m. Thursday through Monday.
For more information, call 782-1055.