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Ranch Family Buys Kids' Arcade Center
Most farmers or ranchers who diversify their operations usually add a livestock enterprise or grow specialty crops. How-ever, rancher Jerry Doan, McKenzie, N. Dak., decided he wanted to diversify out-side agriculture. So he and his wife Renae bought a bankrupt arcade in Bismarck, 25 miles away, and remodeled it. It's now a successful kids' entertainment center complete with bumper cars, arcade games, and even special rooms for birthday parties.
"We had to learn everything from scratch. A lot of people didn't think we'd make it," says Doan, who named the arcade "Snoopers" - the nickname of his II-year-old son Jay. "We wanted to diversify beyond our cow-calf operation. However, we wanted a business that we could get into without spending a lot of money so that if we failed, it wouldn't bring the ranch down. We looked at a lot of different businesses including restaurant franchises, retail clothing chops, etc. But they all cost too much to start up."
They bought the bankrupt arcade at a liquidation auction for less than $10,000. "The building had been run into the ground and was in terrible disrepair," says Doan. "It had a bad reputation and needed a whole new look, theme, and name. We spent $5,000 to $10,000 to clean and remodel it. The bumper cars had to be taken apart and over-hauled, and we had to buy a lot of arcade games. Some artistic friends put caricatures on the walls, using neon colors to cheer the place up.
"The special room for holding birthday parties is really popular - on a good Saturday we can host up to 12 parties. We offer party packages complete with balloons, games, and yogurt birthday cakes."
Renae is the manager. The Doans also hired a full-time assistant manager and three other employees. Their three teenaged children also help out. "It instills business sense in the children," says Doan.
During the school year, the building opens at 3 p.m. and closes at 10 p.m. Soft drinks, hot dogs, and other snacks are available. Admission is $335 per person ($1 for adults) and most of the arcade games are free. 4-H club members get a discount.
"The key is to find a `turnaround'. business that's in trouble because of management mistakes but that still has potential. If you can find a down and out business, you won't have to put so much money out front," notes Doan.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Jerry Doan, Black Leg Ranch, Box 126, McKenzie, N. Dak. 58553 (ph 701673-3441).

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1993 - Volume #17, Issue #6