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Rise Brands and 16-Bit Bar + Arcade Celebrate 5 Years of Growth

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Rise Brands and 16-Bit Bar + Arcade Celebrate 5 Years of GrowthPhoto by Lauren Sega.
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As of this summer, 16-Bit Bar+Arcade, located at 254 S. Fourth St., has been serving up retro gaming and cocktails for five years. And while many bar owners would feel lucky to have made it that long, Troy Allen isn’t that surprised.

“I never wanted to be a bar-restaurant owner,” he says. “We looked at it that we were going to build a brand.”

The 16-Bit brand, along with Pins Mechanical Co. and the lesser known membership-only bar No Soliciting, are products of Rise Brands, which has its offices on East Chestnut Downtown. The company found its roots in the opening of 16-Bit, which Allen says was a project born out of a need for distraction.

“My old company, it was called Elevate Thinking. It was a brand strategy firm in Columbus, and we had it for about five years,” Allen says. Elevate worked with companies to bring products to market, develop messaging, and help with rebranding and campaigns. “I literally hated coming to work every day.”

Never intending to build that kind of agency, Allen changed directions. His idea for 16-Bit came from when he lived in Chicago, where he saw an arcade bar pop up and enjoy immediate success.

It’s been a similar story for 16-Bit, which also has a location in Cleveland and will open in seven more markets, including Dublin, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville, Charlotte, Dallas and Austin, within the next several years. It “came out of the gate pretty hot, and it’s still performing great year after year,” Allen says.

16-Bit’s newer locations have more of a branded feel to them than the original on South Fourth Street. Typically bigger, they’ve incorporated a console lounge offering three or four pairs of comfy leather chairs, instead of the original console bar. During one design, they included an 8-foot tall interactive Lite Brite. And for the Dublin location, they’ve accumulated 3,000 old VHS tapes from the 80s and 90s “that we’re going to do something more fun with,” Allen says.

In other locations, Allen says he’d like there to be spaces that offer a complete retro feel, “like you’re sitting in an old living room.” There’ll be dedicated TVs for movies and sports.

The intention is to keep guests there for hours.

16-Bit’s success is what led to the development of Pins, a larger scale, group gaming venue with the capacity to host the bigger (1,500- to 2,000-person) corporate events that 16-Bit couldn’t accommodate.

“Pins, for us, was really fun, because it got us back to our design roots,” Allen says. “We tried to pay close attention to materials and messaging — all the little things are what kind of get me excited.”

While Allen also had confidence in the success of Pins, he wasn’t quite ready for the number of developers that would come after it. Suburban developers, malls, and everyone in between wants a Pins. But Allen says there will never be a Pins in a mall — “Everything we’ve always done has been urban core. 16-Bit, Pins — we always want to be part of the revitalization of a neighborhood or part of an up-and-coming neighborhood. No High Street or Short North.”

Similar to 16-Bit, Pins will be headed to a number of new markets in the coming years, including Dublin, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville, Charlotte, Dallas and Austin. In most of these new locations, including Dublin, Pins will set up alongside a 16-Bit, offering both gaming experiences side by side.

Recently named one of inc.com’s top 5000 fastest-growing businesses in the U.S., Rise Brands now employs 260 people across their locations and took away $13.9 million in revenue in 2017. In three years, the company has seen a 409 percent growth.

According to Allen, in the next few years, it’ll be time to sell off these successful brands and start something new.

“Once a brand is proven and financially feasible, it’s our goal to just sell them,” he says. “So, I never want to take Pins to 20 locations. We’ve committed to eight locations.

“For me, it’s getting it to enough locations to get the multiple that we want and make it attractive to someone who wants to take it to 20 or 25 locations.”

For more information, visit risebrands.com.

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