- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - When Jose Ruiz opened Wreck It Ruiz Custom Arcades, he was pleasantly surprised that so many parents contacted him.

Ruiz assumed his customers would include bachelors or come from party places. But that wasn’t the case, reported the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (https://bit.ly/2hrcwqz).

“About 90 percent of our business is parents or grandparents,” he said. Most of the parents have kids who are about the same age as the parents when they began playing arcade games, he said.

Most of the arcades he and his team build are for people who want them in their homes for their family to enjoy, he said.

The family experience extends to his life as well. His wife, Hayley, is an integral part of the business, while their son, Jose, is the reason for it all. He is 10 months old, born about two months after the business opened in February.

Wreck It Ruiz Custom Arcades buys, builds, repairs and trades all types of arcade machines. Ruiz and his team create custom-built arcades with made-to-order designs and original art work. The machines come with any variety of games that customers want, including multiple preloaded games.

“We’ll do the entire internal component and do it from the ground up,” he said. The company also has original arcade machines for collectors.

“We find them all over,” he said, including auctions and by scouring warehouses.

His business will buy arcade machines from private owners or take the equipment on consignment.

The company finds arcade machines to suit what a customer wants, he said. He will search by traveling to several states or scour auctions and warehouses to find the right one.

He also plans to rent arcade machines to people for special occasions.

His company builds virtual pinball machines, too, with LED lighting and digital operations.

The arcades Ruiz has at his shop were popular in video arcades stores in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They are making a big comeback now, he said.

They feature video games like Mortal Kombat, Pac-Man and Space Invaders. When he switches them on, his work room comes to life with waves of sound and vibrant colors.

These arcades often start out as shells to which he adds the electronic equipment, modern monitors and new exteriors. His workroom includes a testing station to ensure all equipment operates properly. Each arcade machine comes with a warranty.

Ruiz has assembled local experts to work on cabinetry, designs and the electronics. His company buys boards that are preloaded with multiple games.

He has lived here for 11 years, working full-time as a Cheyenne Police Department patrol officer for a decade. Ruiz now works at the department part-time to concentrate on the business.

“I love arcade machines,” he said. “It’s definitely one of those dream jobs. I was fortunate enough to have the know-how to do this and be a cop at the same time. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.”

Ruiz has enjoyed arcade games since he was a child, playing games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Street Fighters. He comes from a low-income, working-class family and played games when he could, earning money from odd jobs and chores.

“I grew up in a rough part of town in south Denver,” he said, adding that his parents worked hard to raise eight children.

The neighborhood had negative influences that he was able to avoid. Many in his neighborhood urged him to join gangs, and drugs were always prevalent, he said.

But he decided early on to go another direction. He focused on academics and played football and baseball in high school, and held part-time jobs.

“I tried to keep myself busying growing up,” he said. “I did that to keep me away from as much of that negativity as possible.

“I’m a believer in people being products of their own choices instead of where they came from,” he said.

He decided to get away from that environment by attending college with the help of athletic scholarships to become a police officer.

After he completed law enforcement training, he was hired as a correctional officer at a Colorado prison at the age of 20.

He fulfilled his goal of becoming a patrol officer when CPD hired him two years later.

His upbringing was the inspiration for a program he started a few years ago at CPD that provides gifts to all ages of kids from low-income families.

He knows what they experience, as his family sometimes did not have enough money for Christmas gifts, he said.

Ruiz was named after his late father, a hard-working man who entered the United States illegally from Mexico.

His father couldn’t get good jobs because of his immigration status, but taught him the value of hard work, he said. The elder Ruiz also became a U.S. citizen, sometimes studying with his kids to learn about the country.

Ruiz said he also owes a lot to his mother, Ruby, who lives in Denver. She taught him not to fail, he said. “She also instilled in me that nothing comes for free. You have to work for it.”

Casey Patterson, a CPD officer who has worked with Ruiz for several years, said he’s impressed with his friend’s talent as a businessman and skills with the arcades.

“It’s very high quality,” he said of the work on the arcades. “The finish looks good, the art looks good; he does a really good job putting it together.”

Playing arcade games can help close the generation gap, Ruiz said. “It’s a good family get-together. People like arcade machines. You can get two complete strangers playing the same arcade machine; it’s something they have in common.”

___

Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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