Tea native Errol Stewart has a resume that most tech enthusiasts could only dream of.
His career in web design began in Minneapolis, where he studied at the Institute of Art (MIA) after graduating from Lennox High School. Not long afterward, he moved out to Seattle where, he says, his career really began to pick up steam.
It was in Seattle that Stewart was hired by Microsoft – a milestone for his career, in his own words.
There was more to come, however.
After working in Seattle for about eight years, Stewart was approached by a recruiter from tech giant and household name, Netflix.
“For me, that was a really cool moment in my career,” he said. “Silicon Valley is where every web designer wants to be.”
He recalls the Netflix interview as a long, grueling process.
“It was really difficult,” he said. “They flew me out twice, and it was an all-day chain of interviews.”
But Stewart’s hard work paid off, and he became a Netflix employee.
Unfortunately, bad luck and job cuts resulted in his eventual layoff from the company.
“After I got laid off from Netflix, it really deflated my spirits,” said Stewart. “For me, that was the top. You can’t really go any higher than that. So after I lost that job, it was never really the same, and I began to despise my career and corporate America.”
During that time of transition, Stewart had been collecting and repairing old arcade games as a hobby.
BAR + ARCADE = BARCADE
“I’d get home from work, and I’d be up ’til midnight working on my games,” he said. “For me, the enjoyment is in fixing up games to their original beauty. Over the years – these games are 20 to 30 years old – when you find them for sale, they’re all beat up and the artwork is terrible, and the monitors don’t work. They’re in various conditions of disarray.”
Stewart prides himself in the condition of his games. And, after developing an impressive assortment, he realized he needed some way to display them.
He had been living in Miami with his wife, Nat, but the icy tundra of South Dakota was calling.
According to Stewart, most cities surrounding Sioux Falls (think Omaha, Minneapolis, Rapid City – not to mention most larger cities in America) are home to at least one “barcade.”
Yet, for some reason, Sioux Falls was missing the mark.
“And it’s been in the back of my head since I was a teenager, like, ‘Man, if I could run my own arcade, how would it be?’ . . . So it’s been a lifelong thing for me,” he said.
Last year, the couple finally had enough money to turn that childhood dream into a reality.
EightyOne (the name is a nod to the year Stewart was born) opened on Christmas Day of 2017 and sits at a busy intersection in Harrisburg, just 20 minutes from downtown Sioux Falls.
From the outside, it looks like any other bar, sandwiched between a Subway and a physical therapy center in a strip mall.
But step inside the doors (if you’re 9 years of age or older, that is), and you’ll be transported back in time, at least a few years.
“We want it to be family friendly,” said Stewart, “But we don’t want it to turn into a Chuck E. Cheese.”
While billed as a bar, EightyOne’s focus isn’t alcohol – though they offer a selection of both domestic and craft beers. Already equipped with a full kitchen, Stewart says they also hope to grow to the point of serving food as well as drinks.
Food and drink aside, the true appeal of EightyOne is the dark space, punctuated by vibrant flashing lights, loud music, and the unmistakable trill of arcade games. Here, adults can become kids again, and kids are given the freedom to play outside of their personal consoles.
Each week, EightyOne hosts two different local groups for gaming events. On Thursdays, a group meets to bond over Streetfighter 5, and on Wednesdays, a different crowd comes together over Super Smash Bros.
“In my opinion, there’s been a resurgence,” said Stewart. “People are getting into the social experience, being able to play with friends, or with people they don’t know.”
For Stewart, providing that space for nostalgia and relaxation is the ultimate goal.
“I want people to just be able to forget the worries of being an adult, and to reconnect with their childhood.”
EightyOne is open from 3 p.m. – 12 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 5 p.m. – 12 a.m. on Sundays.
For more information, visit eightyonearca.de.
One of the very first arcade games.
Most popular game
The joystick is a banana
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
A fighting game, played via an HD television screen.
Most overlooked game
“It plays like Robotron.”
THINGS TO KNOW
Bring cash. No ATM, though there is a change machine. Most games are $0.25, a select few are $0.50.