Growing up in the 90s, Lockport native Joshua Lopez remembers parades, holiday events, farmers markets, wide sidewalks and small mom ’n pops lining either side of Main Street. Small businesses were the life-blood of the city, until corporations came in, stores like Walmart and Target, that shattered the idyll.
Lopez dreams of seeing "independents" rise again. That's why he's running one small business and starting another in the heart of his home city.
By May, Lopez's Toys from Lo shop will be relocated from Main to 54 Pine St., where there's room for his new enterprise, Lo's Arcade Mania. The two enterprises will exist side-by-side under one roof. A ribbon cutting on the arcade is scheduled for 1 p.m. May 1.
“Pool table over here, we got air hockey table going up here. ... I’m going to offer birthday parties and so on,” Lopez said.
As he showed off the new space, Lopez talked about becoming what he is today — from growing up in the projects, idealizing gangsta rappers like Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls in place of a father or other male role model, to finally getting out of prison for the last time in 2018. It was his last chance to make something of himself, he believed, and he fought for it.
“When I first started, who knew Josh Lopez? Who knew ‘Toys from Lo?’ Nobody except the police,” Lopez said. “There were times I’d go into Tops, I would stand on a cart and I would scream, ‘Attention everyone, my name is Josh Lopez! I’m a Lockport resident, I own ‘Toys from Lo!’ I want to be the number one video game store in Lockport history! Please come support!’ and I would hand out cards.”
That was eight years ago, and since then Lopez's ambition has grown. He says he wants to make Lockport a place where people want to live.
Everybody has positive thoughts about an arcade, he figures — and those who don’t, like millennials who downloaded everything, need to start having them.
Arcade titles familiar to all ages of video enthusiasts will be present in Lo’s Acrade Mania.
“I have quarter-operated machines, no ticket-based machines," Lopez said. "I’m going to have your Centipedes, your Donkey Kongs, your Pac-Mans, your Miss Pack-Mans. I’ll have your motorcycle ride’ems, your car drivers. I got Halo 2 that’s coming, that’s a big shooter machine. I’ll have your duck catchers, your prize cubes, your bike rallies.”
Lopez envisions his arcade as something the community can enjoy. He's critical of corporate arcades, particularly Dave & Busters, which serves alcohol and requires a balance on a card to play. He believes kids need to hear the quarter going into the slot, see the lights coming on and hear the laughter of other children around them.
“Am I making you pay a certain amount when you come into my store? No!” Lopez said. “If you have a dollar in quarters, you should be able to come in, play two, three, four games, then go about your day and have fun.”
From the projects to the central business district, it’s been a long road for Lopez, but he's thankful for his family, as well as the late Raymond Steiner, who gave him a chance to open a business and signed a lease.
“I’m humbled right from the dirt we stand on to have the opportunities I have,” Lopez said. “That’s the honest truth.”