WINSLOW — A crowdfunding campaign by two men ended up raising more than $15,000 in only a month, allowing them to open a gaming lounge and arcade on Bay Street last week.

The co-owners of The Nexus: Arcade and Gaming Lounge, Mark Blaschke, 31, and Nicholas Murray, 29, first became friendly during their high school days at Erskine Academy. They reconnected last year as co-workers at Bull Moose, the entertainment store, and Blaschke pitched his old friend his dream of longer than a decade: to open an arcade right in Winslow where they both now live.

In a YouTube video posted to The Nexus’ channel, Blaschke said the idea “kind of hit me when I went to work at GameStop for the first time.”

He was the store’s manager from 2017 to 2020. “I started seeing a lot of patterns. … Customers being like, ‘Man, I wish there was a place you could just try these games out and not have to spend $60, taking the chance of not liking it,'” he said.

But the pair soon realized they’d need a great deal of help to fund that dream.


Blaschke and Murray began a Kickstarter campaign in March, pitching a versatile gaming space in central Maine with old-school arcade machines and a wide board game selection, as well as “new-style stuff” like the latest gaming consoles, PCs and “gamer culture items” like collectibles and trading cards.

“We really just want it to be a community hub for all the gamers in the local area,” Blaschke told the Morning Sentinel. “Gaming is usually an introverted thing, so there’s not a lot of socialization, but especially after the pandemic … people are just sick of being in their homes.”

They were hopeful but not expecting that their $15,000 crowdfunding goal could be met in time for a fall opening. “We figured we’d try the crowdfunding thing, and give the community a chance to pitch in,” Blaschke said. “And it obviously works.”

Cody Homack of Winslow, with back to camera, joins Peter Mahoney of Waterville, center, and Jackson Woody of Madison as they play a board game at the newly opened The Nexus: Arcade and Gaming Lounge at 46 Bay St. in Winslow last week. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The pair gave their campaign 50 days to meet their goal. Blaschke said initially there was a “little bit of doubt” in their minds, but within two days they had received their first $1,000 from contributors, buoying their spirits.

The pair had looked for more traditional financial backing, meeting with five different banks and credit unions as well as the Finance Authority of Maine and Brunswick-based Coastal Enterprises Inc.

But with inflationary pressures pushing up interest rates, accessing startup financing for a small business is no easy feat in 2022. “The banks wouldn’t help us,” Murray said. So the two went all-in on the crowdfunding effort.


“It was a lot of hard work,” Blaschke said. “We were pushing it on social media on a daily basis.”

Social media and online promotion have played an invaluable role in getting The Nexus bankrolled and opened, the men said. “It’s a free marketing medium,” Blaschke said of their online presence.

They generated enough buzz to create a small, vibrant community of gaming enthusiasts who wanted to make The Nexus happen. By the end of April, only a month after beginning their campaign, The Nexus Kickstarter hit $15,000.

Blaschke and Murray said their business was started with a total of $19,000: $15,220 of which came from 623 people on the internet.

Their first week has the pair optimistic they’ll make a return on that investment by early 2023.

They hope to draw people of all ages and interests. “That’s literally what nexus means,” Murray said. “It’s a connecting point. That’s kind of our goal … to help people network with other gamers and just meet a ton of new people.”

For those who enjoy old-school games, Blaschke and Murray are waiting on a delivery of classic arcade games and plan to purchase pinball machines in the future. For those who enjoy modern gaming systems, groups of up to four can pay a flat fee to play on new consoles such as the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and XBox Series X. They have supplies for Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts, too, and the option to pay a fee for a couple hours of board games.

The Nexus is open daily from noon to 9 p.m., except for Sundays when it closes at 7 p.m.

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