For decades, families summering at Sound View Beach in Old Lyme have followed a well-worn path from the ice cream shop to the Carousel to the Arcade to play video and carnival games. Today, however, the doors to the Arcade are closed for good.
After 26 years at Sound View, arcade owner Paul Massore and his wife Cecelia of Montville are retiring. "It's time to retire," said Paul Massore. "I'm 72 years old!"
"It's sad," said Brian Carra, 38, of Somers, whose family owns five cottages on Swan Avenue. "I've been coming here as long as I can remember and now I take my kids here."
Massore, who also ran American Billiards in Groton for 18 years until he sold that business four years ago, said he plans to sell all the games. Massore said he's not going to miss going to work. In hindsight, he said, he probably should have retired seven years ago when he suffered a stroke.
Massore said he sees a lot of people who came to the arcade as kids returning now with their own children. Many of them rent the same cottages the same weeks year after year. Over the past few years, however, he said, "A lot of people have been missing. It's cheaper to get a motel."
The prices of cottage rentals went up a couple of years ago, Massore said, and a lot of his regular customers told him they were opting to stay at motels in Niantic instead of renting in Old Lyme. This year, he said, also seemed to put a lot of people off.
"I think it hurt a lot of the day businesses," he said.
Massore doesn't think the parking prices are entirely responsible for the drop in his business, however. As Massore didn't open until 6:30 p.m. and street parking was free after 5 p.m., he added, "It shouldn't have affected me at all."
"It's been very slow the past four years, ever since the recession," Massore said. "This year was the worst, I think. You're used to seeing the same customers every year and this year and last, all of a sudden you don't see them any more. I had the worst July I've ever had. Once you lose in July, you can't make it up in August."
Over the years Massore has seen a lot of businesses come and go, although these days he said there are more going than coming. "The people that are here now are barely surviving," he said.
Massore said the hot dog store in the space next door to the arcade only opened briefly in June. He isn't sure whether the building owner has a new tenant lined up for the space he rents but he's not sure that another arcade could make a go of it now that everyone has games at their fingertips on their smart phones, I-pads, and computer tablets.
Aside from the arcades at Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun Casinos, there are no other arcades in the area, Massore said. He's been in the business since the days of Asteroids, Pac Man, and Donkey Kong but now, he noted, "I'm the last of a dying breed."
The families at Sound View beach for whom a nightly visit to the arcade has been a long-standing tradition, however, will miss him—and the feeling is mutual.
"I'll miss the people who come here most of all," said Massore.