4/27/2021
Kat Merry

Happy Valley: Beacon’s Anything-But-Average Arcade Bar

By: Kat Merry


Happy Valley is shaking up the typical recipe for a neighborhood arcade bar, catering to all ages & appetites, while stunning customers with an eye popping aesthetic. But Happy Valley didn’t just magically fall out of the sky looking this rad- although their interior ‘alien mothership’ vibe and cosmic logo may suggest otherwise. It took a labor of love, and certainly a learning curve, to build this neighborhood bar. I took a deep dive into the magic of the space with owners and married couple, Johnny and Alyssa.


This dream biz had been in the making for a long time, as Johnny and Alyssa admit they’d become lovers of the arcade bar concept years ago.

Alyssa: We used to live in Chicago for about five years and an arcade bar opened in our neighborhood. We ended up going there all the time and it kind of planted the seed. That was back in 2009 and ever since then, wherever we moved next we would think, would this be a good place to open one (an arcade bar)?


The two lived in NYC for a while- Johnny working in cinematography and Alyssa teaching art. Then, about three years ago, they made a decision to leave the city to find a house and start a family. When they touched down in Beacon, that question bubbled up again “would this be a good place to open an arcade bar?”


Alyssa: Johnny immediately was like, this place (Beacon) is perfect let’s do it!” He started to tell everyone, ‘oh yeah, we’re going to open an arcade bar here!’ But we hadn't even found a space yet!


Johnny (laughing): I guess I kind of thought that if I started telling everyone that we were doing it, then it would manifest itself.


Alyssa: I was the one kind of like hmmm I’m not so sure!

 
 
 

Neither of them had experience opening a restaurant or bar, so I probably would have sided with Alyssa here! But it was a true learn on their feet experience for the pair and when they finally found a space, they went all in.

They signed a lease on a large run-down mechanics garage, so Johnny and Alyssa had to quite literally build Happy Valley from the ground up.


Alyssa: The floors were basically dirt and gravel! But it had a kind of industrial vibe and we really liked the high ceilings.

Johnny talked about how it would’ve been an easy route to lean into the industrial vibe for the look of the bar- a typical aesthetic of other arcade bars they’d seen before.

Johnny: That’s what I think everyone is used to seeing. The typical combination of wood and metal, that Brooklyn industrial vibe with exposed brick and everything.

But typical wasn't going to cut it for these two and they went a very different route. The team knew they wanted to create a completely unique aesthetic and Alyssa (a talented artist) was eager to go in a new and an out-of-this-world direction.


Alyssa: I spent almost a year doing sketches of what things would look like. I did A LOT of story-boarding. When you step up to the bar, I want it to look you're boarding some kind of UFO mothership.


Alyssa says this, jutting her colorful sleeve into the air as she points at the brightly painted walls behind Happy Valley’s rounded bar top.

Aaaand she nailed it, it truly does resemble a UFO!

 
 

Alyssa also built and painted the blue furniture in the courtyard to compliment the bright colors inside and in their logo. The experience all together feels like you've been transported into a retro-cosmic-gallery, complete with nostalgic movies playing on two modest television sets and a menu of cocktails with names like ‘Sex on the Koopa Troopa Beach.’ YUM.


Alyssa: We wanted to not only be a place for craft beer drinkers (although they do have a mighty impressive list of craft brews) We wanted this to be a great place on it’s own, for anyone to enjoy.


Well, while it is of course a haven for those beer-drinking, Pac-Man-playing young adults, you’ll see patrons of all ages and palettes enjoying the space- young kids & vegans alike.


Parents to little boy and baby number two on the way, Alyssa and Johnny especially love seeing young children and families enjoying the space.


Johnny: We'll have kids that come in and play games that their parents played when they were their age, it’s really cool. There was a kid in here the other day and he said, “This is like Chuck E Cheese, but I like it better!”

Alyssa: All the other arcade bars we’ve been to never catered to young kids or older adults. When we opened here, we recognized that we’re not in a huge city and we figured there would be more of a variety, more kids and families.


They are still mastering the balance of customer appeal and as the bar became increasingly popular with young kids and families, they were able to institute ‘adult swim’ hours later in the evenings, to cater to an older crowd while protecting all customer experiences.




Johnny: We get a lot of date nights, happy hours - the running club in town sometimes comes here. Everyone loves the games!

Alyssa: Yeah and seeing older people reliving games from their childhood with their grandchildren...we just love to see that.


Like most restaurants in New York, J&A had to quickly adjust to the challenges of pandemic times. Statewide regulations shut down their novel arcade games for most of the winter and fall- an imaginable frustration for the main appeal of the establishment. However, it did allow them to expand their business plan in new ways.


Johnny: In a way, that time during the shutdowns actually pushed us to improve the other parts of the bar that we had on the back burner. We had to beef up our cocktail and food menus, we got merch, and we focused more on the parts of the business that we hadn’t put much thought into yet.


Happy Valley also partners with a few other Beacon businesses like Glazed Over Doughnuts & Big Mouth Roasters, to bring local offerings to their customers.


Alyssa: We were just saying the other day, what do we love the most about owning this bar? And we just really love being able to connect with other people in the community.


It is clear that both Johnny and Alyssa share this sentiment, establishing Happy Valley allowed them to connect and grow with other businesses in Beacon. They have a real community-focused mindset and it really shines through in their space.


When I asked them what the future holds for their establishment- Maybe another location? Or maybe a chain of bars? The pair chooses, for now, to focus solely on providing consistent service and a unique experience for customers at this location. (Love where their head is at!)


These two share such genuine enthusiasm for all their bar has to offer and they have certainly found success by playing to their personal strengths as their business grows. Johnny, the pragmatic mind behind logistics and day to day operations and Alyssa, who continues to perfect the customer experience through her imaginative art and creative vision.


So, come one and come all, to Happy Valley! There is a little something for everyone -& it is truly out of this world!


**Visit Happy Valley in Beacon, NY**

Website: www.happyvalleybeacon.com & MENU

Address: 296 Main Street, Beacon NY 12508

Hours: Mon-Sun, noon-11pm

Check out Alyssa's amazing art: www.atfollansbee.com