It only took one visit to his local arcade bar to convince Johnny Coughlin that he needed to open one of his own.
Back in 2011, the Beacon resident and his wife, Alyssa Follansbee, were living in the Wicker Park area of Chicago when they heard rumor of an arcade bar opening in their area. Intrigued, they followed the shop religiously on social media until opening night arrived. They went to the grand debut, of course, and were sold on the concept in a second.
“I would say we knew we wanted to open our own arcade bar from that first moment we stepped inside the bar,” Coughlin admits.
A cinematographer by trade (check out his work at Big Village Media), Coughlin’s 10-plus years of industry experience had more to do with directing, writing, and filming for big-name brands across the nation. Yet upon relocating from Chicago to New York City and then to Beacon two years ago, he and Follansbee, a former art teacher on Roosevelt Island, knew they were ready for something new. They did a browse through the region to see if anything similar to the arcade bar concept they first encountered in Chicago existed locally and, upon coming up empty, knew it was time to pursue the project they had been dreaming about for nearly 10 years.
“After looking around and seeing that there was not a dedicated arcade bar in the Hudson Valley, we went all in,” Coughlin says. To get things moving on Happy Valley Arcade, he and Follansbee started scouting real estate in the area. When they noticed a wide-open space at 296 Main Street in Beacon, complete with its own courtyard, they were sold. Although the building was raw and unfinished, the couple saw its potential as an entertainment destination in the heart of the city.
Yet while Coughlin and Follansbee found their property quickly after commencing their search in spring of 2019, they encountered delays in the form of city council meetings, an extensive buildout, and, of course, COVID-19. Not only did the latter slow down construction, but it also forced the couple to rethink their opening plan to implement safety measures that allow everyone to feel comfortable and secure while having fun.
During the delay, the duo made the most of the extra time by adding as many special touches as possible. Follansbee built all 16 of Happy Valley’s outdoor benches herself and even painted the quirky cool exterior sign. She did the murals inside as well, opting for large-scale designs in hues reminiscent of classic games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man.
The couple kicked off their summertime opening on August 5 in the Hudson Valley. To generate excitement, they offered a slow reveal of the games they have onsite via Facebook. Coughlin is happy to report that featured games are a mix of classics, niche selections, and pinball. To start, they offer 19 games to ensure social distancing, although they hope to up this number to 25 or more as restrictions lessen. As for the outdoor courtyard, they keep it open for socially distant tables at which visitors can grab a drink and sit for a spell.
“Our logo depicts a person being beamed up into an alien ship…and we want our guest to feel like they are entering another dimension when they visit,” he explains. “Whether you are visiting us to forget your troubles and enjoy a game of Pac-Man, take a trip down memory lane to the arcades of your childhood, or just relax and share a drink, we want our space to be your happy place.”
To this end, he and Follansbee envision Happy Valley as a throwback paradise. Nostalgia fills the walls in the form of a vending machine full of ‘90s kid snacks (Ring Pops and Fruit by the Foot, anyone?), a retro photo booth, and vintage games. At the bar, meanwhile, the couple serves 16 beers on tap and eight or so original cocktails, along with cider, sake, wine, and light bites. There is no onsite kitchen, so food options are limited. Fortunately for anyone craving a bite, Happy Valley is located right next to Hudson Valley Food Hall, where everything from dumplings to Southern comfort food awaits.
“We love that someone in their 30s can bring their parent in their 60s as well as their own five-year-old child, and all three generations can play the games and have a great time,” Coughlin observes. “Happy Valley is a mom-and-pop establishment of just the two of us pouring our life savings into a business we believe in. We feel really passionate that Happy Valley will be a positive addition to our Beacon community, and it’s really been a labor of love.”
Happy Valley Arcade
296 Main St, Beacon