Ben Morgan, owner of Old North Arcade, has been taking calculated risks his entire life. During his teenage years, he quickly became enamored with Magic The Gathering, a card game where players face off against each other in one-on-one battles that take place in a fantasy world with wizards, monsters and spells. Morgan recognized he had a gift for not only reading situations correctly, but also reading his opponents across the table. Soon enough, he found himself enthralled with the competitive card game lifestyle.
Realizing his card table artistry could be applied to other pursuits at the ripe age of 16, Morgan asked his mother for a $50 credit to an online poker site. At the time, Morgan said it was merely out of interest. Little did he know that this small credit, borrowed against his mother’s better judgment, would lead to a career playing professional poker for well over the next decade.
Small business owners encounter risks regularly. The small business sector is an ever-evolving realm where quick action, coupled with strategic thinking, are tantamount to one’s success, which is why when Ben Morgan cashes in on his next endeavor, a bar-cade concept, located in the Old North, he knows of the risk involved. In fact, he welcomes it with open arms. With the help of long-time friend and experienced service-industry ace, Pierre Mondon, Morgan plans to turn Old North Arcade into the premier happy hour “socialtainment” spot, catering to the Clintonville community he calls home, as well as the University District.
“Once we decided on the bar-cade concept, it was a no brainer; it had to be located in the Old North neighborhood,” Morgan said. “Clintonville is ever expanding, and when considering the fact that we are within walking distance of OSU, this area is begging for a bar like ours.”
Morgan was close to purchasing a bar at another location down the street when the Sunflower Natural Foods building became available. As soon as he toured the facilities, he realized his bar-cade concept was a perfect fit for the space.
With plans to house over 30 free-to-play upright arcade games, as well as a Nintendo 64 console lounge with a four-player party focus, Old North Arcade will offer a different experience than the popular 16-Bit Bar, located on the other side of town.
“16-Bit Bar has done a great job with their bar,” Morgan said. “The 80s pop culture ties to their cocktails and overall concept was definitely a nice touch. We want to create more of a neighborhood vibe versus a destination location, with a focus on the gaming/nerd culture, but also making sure to harness a loyal Central Ohio identity.”
Old North Arcade will feature a draft list comprised of only local beers. With the recent influx of breweries popping up all over Columbus, Morgan wanted to give them center stage. The draft list will rotate seasonally, but will feature Seventh Son, Land Grant and Actual Brewery beers on a regular basis. Handcrafted cocktails, such as “The Ocarina of Lime” and “Super Smashed Bros,” will cater to others, while still staying true to Old North Arcade’s original concept.
Morgan also plans to feature local food offerings through a food truck rotation, brokered through The Food Fort powered by ECDI, and has been in talks with next-door neighbor Café Bella about offering a limited menu on select nights.
“My plan is to support local businesses in any way possible,” Morgan said. “We are excited to not only have a neighborhood vibe at our bar, but also use our space as an extension to other small business entrepreneurs. Café Bella is one of the best-kept secrets in the Old North. Collaborating with and supporting our neighbors is key to our longevity at this location.”
Morgan admits he faced resistance when he met with the surrounding bar owners about bringing his concept to the block. However, after many discussions, the local bar community has begun to embrace the idea because it will provide a new influx of curious customers to the area.
“We were basically told that if we succeed in the first year, it would benefit the entire district,” Morgan said. “Being so close to other great bars…SpaceBar, Ace of Cups, Bossy Girl, The Ravari Room, Hound Dogs…we believe our concept will pair well with them. We don’t look at ourselves as competitors, but rather supporters. You can come into Old North Arcade for a drink and a quick game before heading across the street to SpaceBar to catch the band you’re waiting to see.”
With plans to open in May, Morgan and Mondon are working day and night to have Old North Arcade ready for the masses. Final touches such as finalizing décor options, finishing bathroom installments, and then merely cleaning up construction dust, is all that is left to address before Old North Arcade opens to the eager public.
“Everyday it seems that a new person pops in to get an update,” Morgan shared. “We can’t wait to finally have those doors open and see this place come to life. Then we will know all of our hard work has truly paid off.”
Old North Arcade, located at 2591 N. High St., will be open Monday through Friday, 4:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon – 2:30 a.m. Visit oldnortharcade.com as well as facebook.com/oldnortharcade for impending opening announcements.
— Ben Morgan came to ECDI seeking additional funding in May 2014. Jim Cogan, ECDI relationship manager, brokered Morgan’s loan allowing his dream of opening Old North Arcade become a reality. Morgan notes that ECDI “Is so much more than a bank because of the added value they provide through their networking opportunities and business counseling. They provide so much more for a small business owner.”
“The Economic & Community Development Institute is a Columbus, Ohio-based 501(c)(3) non-profit economic development organization founded in 2004. As one of the largest micro-lenders in the country, ECDI’s mission is to invest in people to create measurable and enduring social and economic change. Since its inception in 2004, ECDI has benefited local communities throughout the state of Ohio, assisted over 5,000 entrepreneurs, loaned over $23 million to over 1,200 businesses, and created or retained over 4,500 jobs via our comprehensive suite of programs available through our offices in Columbus, Cleveland, Akron and Toledo, Ohio. Our programs and services have been supported by over $52 million in federal, state, local and private funds and have proven to create jobs, increase access to capital and spur local economic development. How do we do this? We educate, invest and innovate with the businesses and people we inspire. —