As a lifelong collector and gamer, Kevin Walitalo found that his collection had grown big enough that he and his wife, Allyson, were able to cut it in half, open up a store and make it a fun experience, Walitalo said.
In April 2016, the two of them were able to do just that and opened Black Box Gaming, named after the original 30 games Nintendo brought to America after Atari crashed the video game market in 1983, Walitalo said, noting that even the store’s logo comes from the original Mario Bros. game.
“They all came in black boxes, so it’s known as the black box collection,” he said. “It’s the history of video games.”
Walitalo said he enjoys the relationships with the customers and the fact that anyone can come in and the two of them can kick up a conversation about past video games, something coming out or even video game controversies.
The store doesn’t just sell games, gaming equipment or system, people can also come in and sell games for cash or trade them in for store credit, Walitalo said. Further, while it does take in newer systems and games, Black Box Gaming specializes in retro, he said.
“I get numerous customers trading me PS4s and Xbox Ones because they want to go back to old school or they want one of our modded Xboxes, they want some of the older stuff,” Walitalo said, noting that he gets people who come in with their kids and reminisce.
“It’s the nostalgia effect. That’s what triggers people. It’s funny that people come in here, never seen the store before, they’ll see their whole childhood and walk out with a bag of goodies.”
There’s a section of the store that’s referred to as Mom’s Basement, Walitalo said. Not only is it a spot where people can come in and spend some time just playing a game, but it’s also where the Saturday night tournaments are at 6 p.m. Anyone is allowed to play for store credit and prizes, he said.
Allyson said she gets some teenagers who love how they can just go over there and play any game they want for a couple hours.
“Some kids can’t afford video game systems. Not everybody can drop $60 on one video game,” she said. “If they’re the kind of kids that can’t afford to have this stuff at home, they can come here and play for a little while.”
Kevin said he wants Black Box Gaming to flourish and noted that it would be nice to have another store in five years. However, the goal is to keep it family owned, he said, remarking that all of the store’s reviews pinpoint how good he and Allyson are with customer service.
Black Box Gaming can be found at 8169 E. Florentine Road and is closed on Wednesdays.