Entering the Save Point arcade on a Friday night, patrons will be greeted by a flurry of sounds, from the clack of pinball machines and Ms. Pac-Man’s “waka waka” to the chatter of friends beating each other’s high scores. others.
Over the past few months, the arcade has become the go-to spot for local video game enthusiasts. Located at 17 N. Main St. in Union Bridge, Save Point offers a free donation-based arcade with approximately 20 rotating games. The store also buys, sells and refurbishes video games from all eras.
Owner Eric Holniker has lived his entire life in Carroll County and said sharing his favorite games with others has always been a dream.
“My dad made arcade games in Baltimore in the 1980s, so I grew up around the machines and developed a passion for them,” Holniker said. “We have a lot of unique things that we really cherish and there’s no other arcade in the state that we know of that maintains games like we do.”
Save Point’s mission is to embrace video game culture and educate people about the world that video games provide, while taking the time to repair and preserve games for future generations to enjoy. .
Holniker often travels across the country to obtain quality arcade machines imported from Japan to add to his collection.
Some of the rarest machines in the Union Bridge arcade include one of the 100 Primus pinball machines ever made and Taiko no Tatsujin, the Japanese version of the Taiko Drum Master music game.
“We have the only public machine on the East Coast,” Holniker said.
The store’s operations manager, Izzy Basili, said she had been interested in “weird and obscure Japanese games” since she was a child.
“We have a lot of things here that are hard to find,” Basili said.
Although Save Point was once a video game store at the TownMall in Westminster, it closed in 2017 due to mall limitations.
“We couldn’t hold tournaments or stay open late,” Holniker said.
At the end of 2017 the plan was to move to a new location in Westminster, but this fell through due to complications from the landlord.
“The dream was dead unless we found a place to call home,” Holniker said. Until 2020, the company had to make do with online sales.
Eventually, a space was found at Union Bridge that suited the arcade’s needs perfectly. The new space opened to the public in May.
The owner said that although Save Point has a commercial side, the focus is on arcade games and pinball machines, which the public can play for free.
“We are there for those who cannot afford to spend money on a machine. … We just want to share our games,” Holniker said.
Another unique feature of the arcade is that anyone 21 and over is allowed to bring their own alcoholic beverages to drink while hanging out with friends and enjoying the games inside.
“We’re one of the only free BYOB arcades in the state,” Holniker said. “Other arcades sell alcohol and charge around $15 an hour to play.”
Donations are accepted and go towards electricity bills, machine maintenance and the expansion of the back room, which will add more space and another 20 arcade games to the lineup. Those interested in donating can do so in-store or online at https://savepointmd.square.site/free-play-arcade.
Save Point currently offers over 100 unique Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games, 200 unique Nintendo DS titles, and over 350 unique PlayStation 2 games for purchase.
Additionally, the Save Point team has delivered an assortment of gaming machines to events nationwide, such as the annual MAGFest (Music and Game Festival) in Maryland.
Maddy Lehmann, who repairs the machines in the arcade, said the busiest nights are usually Fridays and Saturdays, noting that business often fluctuates.
“Seeing people playing these games makes me happy…otherwise the machines would be in storage,” she said.
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Jacob Manion from Westminster started visiting Save Point about five months ago.
“When I first entered the place, I was surprised,” he said. “I never grew up rich, so the free play feature blew me away, even as an adult.”
Manion said he “fell in love” with the arcade and came back every weekend for a while.
“It’s a safe place to have fun and have a good time on the weekends,” he said. “I can’t think of another place like this on the entire East Coast.”
Now, Manion volunteers at Save Point, doing everything from working at conventions to fixing machines and updating the arcade’s website.
“Being able to watch a dad show his son how to play Galaga and see that connection makes all of our work interesting,” Holniker said. “I think we’re going to put Union Bridge on the map.”
Save Point is open 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Although they are not open during normal business hours Monday through Wednesday, there is usually a team on hand, either working on arcade machines or helping people fix any games they have to the House. During this period, appointments can be made for exchanges and repairs. Anyone wishing to rent the arcade for a party or private event can call 443-289-4825 to discuss booking and rates.