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Jason Pacey '02 runs 8 Bit Arcade in Bloomington and Peoria.

Alum ‘levels up’ with unique small business

Does a mixture of old school video games and craft beer sound like the perfect match? Jason Pacey ’02 believed this to be true. Thanks to Pacey, Central Illinois now has two new hot spots, located in Peoria and Bloomington, that combined Pacey’s favorite things to create 8 Bit Arcade Bar.

How did this trending business come to fruition? From a young age, Pacey knew he would eventually work for himself. “I was always buying things at garage sale/flea markets and then reselling them at my own garage sale or online. I was also big into sports cards and would constantly set up at shows as well.”

Pacey graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in small business management and information systems. He was impacted greatly by the education he received during his time at the University. “The business program gave me a well-rounded education on all things business, from accounting, to general economic theory, to working with different group dynamics.”

After leaving his previous employer, Pacey decided to take a risk, use what he learned at Illinois State, and venture out on his own. He started considering this business after sitting with a friend who suggested the concept. He then went and did his research by visiting a few arcade bars and decided to bring the idea back to Central Illinois. 8 Bit Arcade Bar opened in Peoria September 2015, followed by a Bloomington location this past June.

Pacey believes it’s important to pursue entrepreneurship. “Small business is the backbone of our economy, and you also got to remember that all big businesses once started out as small businesses,” he said. “Entrepreneurship gives you endless freedom to try things out, some will work, some will fail, without a boss looming over you at all time.”

Reflecting on his time at Illinois State, Pacey advises students and his fellow alumni to give entrepreneurship a try. “The entrepreneurship program, helped me focus more on planning and business development, which is necessary for any business,” he said. “Just find your niche, you don’t need a huge idea that caters to everyone, a niche market can take care of you just as well. Also do not be afraid of failure. If something does not work out, it doesn’t mean you failed. If you believe it’s still a good idea, try working it another way.”

Pacey found his niche market with 8 Bit Arcade Bar. Pacey sees his businesses as something different than others. “Unlike the majority of arcade bars, all of our games are free to play as long as you buy a drink.” 8 Bit’s menu offers a wide variety of drinks with a specialty in craft beer. The bar currently serves over 130 flavors along with weekly specials.

Pacey wants to focus on the Peoria and Bloomington locations now, but don’t be surprised if he continues his success down the road. “I have been looking at a few other cities in the future for expansion.” Redbirds that want to check out their fellow alum’s business or maybe just try to get their name as the high score in a favorite game, can learn more about 8 Bit Arcade and its locations.

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