To some, sitting passively at a bar watching a football game or chit-chatting with friends is passe. People want experiences, and Rally Point Bar & Arcade fits the bill with its flashing lights, ringing bells and a diverse array of games.
“At a regular bar, you can go and grab a drink and meet with friends and socialize,” said Kevin Ullman, who owns Rally Point with his friend and business partner, Andrew Hargrove. “We add a fun factor to that.”
Rally Point, 214 Walnut St. in downtown Wilmington, taps into the growing popularity of social entertainment venues, where people immerse themselves in an activity while savoring their favorite libations. At the same time, arcade bars and restaurants cater to the populace’s love affair with gaming. For many, arcade bars also give customers an escape from their everyday lives and a chance to relive a bit of their past, revisiting days when they spent their extra time and a few bucks at an arcade.
The social aspect of arcade bars is a strong draw as well. They make great icebreakers for first dates, and their relaxed, fun atmosphere creates camaraderie among friends and strangers alike, according to Ullman.
“Rally Point is a place where people come together and have fun with some friendly competition,” Ullman said. “People can come with their friends, or they can bring their kids and have some fun with them and make some memories.”
The appeal of arcade bars and restaurants is so strong that they are popping up in cities nationwide. Wilmington is already home to other establishments that provide drinks and games.
However, Ullman said Rally Point fills a unique place in the Port City arcade scene.
“In some places, the arcade is a filler,” he said. “We wanted Rally Point to be a true bar and arcade.”
To that end, Rally Point offers patrons an extensive array of games with broad appeal. To ensure he had the right mix, Ullman installed his favorite games and those recommended by the company that provides games.
The result is a combination of new and classic games that patrons are eager to play, including Skee-Ball, Pong, beer pong, air hockey, basketball, Pac-Man, claw machine, basketball and punching bags. Racing games are coming, Ullman promises.
Rally Point’s upstairs level, still a work in progress, will feature a Retro Lounge and more old-school games such as pinball machines and Nintendo consoles, Ullman said. He expects these additions will draw even more gamers.
The venue is also open for private events to maximize Rally Point’s earning potential. It’s an attractive alternative for families or friends who want a one-of-a-kind experience and corporations looking for team building or a way to reward their employees, according to Ullman.
Ullman’s partner, Hargrove, who has experience in the restaurant and bar industry, makes sure the drinks side of the establishment is as attractive as the games. Ullman said Rally Point serves all the usual bar drinks, and the service is exemplary.
“We have a great staff who do their jobs effectively,” he added. “People pile up around the bar and need attention, and having a staff that is friendly and communicates well is essential. You can have the best games in the world, but if the staff isn’t friendly, the experience isn’t as enjoyable.”
Though Ullman decided to forego food service, patrons can nosh on eats from food trucks that change every week.
Given Rally Point’s popularity since it opened in mid-October, Ullman appears to have hit a home run with the venture.
“It’s better than we expected,” Ullman said. “It’s quite an array of ages, and they are from all walks of life. It’s a different crowd with a good mix, and that’s nice to see.”
Even so, Ullman plans to add special events to Rally Point’s offerings to maximize the establishment’s appeal. These include date nights, half-off games nights, Saturday kids days, Sunday mimosas and competition nights.
Competition nights would work differently than Rally Point’s usual procedure, where the winner’s only prize is bragging rights. Instead, competitors would buy into the game, and Ullman said the winner would take all, or the top winners would split the prize.
“We want to have something extra that excites people,” he said. “We’ll have some friendly competition, and people will have an opportunity to walk out with a few extra bucks in their pocket.”
Though Ullman thought his idea for Rally Point was right for Wilmington, he said making it a reality still took a leap of faith. He had to learn a lot – which he said he is still doing – and he turns to experts for guidance and assistance.
“As you build something like this, you need to build your skills to their peak and surround yourself with people who are the top in their fields,” he said. “I can’t do it all. I rely on my chief financial officer and marketing teams. I’m not the best, but you learn as you go along and find people who elevate you and elevate your business.”
Rally Point is just a starting point for Ullman, who wants to take the concept to multiple locations.
“When I see people coming in and enjoying themselves, it lets me know we’ve done something right,” Ullman said. “I want to build on that.”