The owner of two businesses in downtown Hanover, Jill Rohrbaugh started noticing a different vibe, and more people, in the heart of her town’s business district two-plus years ago.
There were young people, there were families, and they were coming to have fun in the town known as “the snack capital of the world.”
They were coming because of TimeLine Arcade, a family-oriented entertainment hub that has become a beehive of activity since opening in October 2013 on the second floor of a former bank building at 22 Carlisle St., just off Hanover’s square.
TimeLine’s success showed Rohrbaugh that a city center “can be where people come for entertainment, not just for shopping and for business.
“People hadn’t come downtown for their entertainment for a very long time. I think that was the niche that he filled, and it has been very nice,” she said.
That’s a development that officials in York, who sought out TimeLine owner Brandon Spencer and asked him to open a second arcade in their city, hope can be repeated in the heart of their downtown.
Spencer, 36, of Hanover, is shooting for a mid-to-late April opening of his second TimeLine Arcade, in the White Rose City, at 54 W. Market St., across from the popular Holy Hound bar and restaurant.
From the first time he looked at the long, narrow inside of the building and its location, just a block from York’s Central Market, Spencer said in a recent interview, he knew he had found his place.
He started in Hanover with 40 to 50 arcade and video games, then grew it to 175.
York could be twice that size. He plans to start in April with 150 to 160 games, then grow until he reaches as many as 200 to 300 games in his arcade, which is around 10,000 square feet.
He was approached by officials with downtown York’s Royal Square development, and plans to stick around. He has signed a 10-year lease and is renting the building from ROCK real estate, he said Monday.
“We call ourselves a ‘gaming timeline,’” Spencer said in a recent interview, as workers were busy hammering and banging, even drowning out the sounds of their radio’s classic rock, to make the April opening.
“We’re a timeline of the history of and the progression of video games from back in the day when they were in arcades to when they were in home consoles,” he said, adding that “pinball is definitely coming back. It’s huge right now.”
He won’t get an argument from Hanover’s Rohrbaugh, owner of Architecture Workshop and Treasures, a retail store. “Everybody likes pinball. You don’t have to be a young person to want to go in there,” she said.
And Justine Kilkelly Trucksess, manager of Main Street Hanover, is a big supporter, calling TimeLine “a great addition to downtown Hanover.
“Brandon is such a perfect example of what you want in a new business owner in a downtown. He is creative and active in the community, always looking for new ways to attract his customers and share the news of the other great businesses,” she said.
“It is such a unique and exciting business that attracts families and adults alike.”
Another supporter is Henry McLin, a borough councilman and long-time Hanover resident.
“The video games, the air hockey, all sorts of things, have really brought in the families,” he said. “It’s almost like a museum, where they have games from out of the past, old pinball games, but modern games, too.”
McLin has seen several businesses open nearby since TimeLine started, “and I think things are going to get a lot better, too,” he said.
But a nearby Hanover business owner, Doris Geeting at the Subway Restaurant, 14 Carlisle St., is more mixed in her assessment.
“My business picked up a little on Saturdays, but for the most part, (Timeline) hasn’t been picking us up,” she said last week. “I think there’s the potential for it to benefit others more.”
She does like how Spencer has kept the promise he made before opening in Hanover, to run a business geared toward families.
And that family aspect is what Spencer emphasizes when he encounters, and sometimes answers on Facebook, people who express fears that his “pinball arcade” will become a haven for trouble.
He heard the same fears before he opened in Hanover, he recalled, and said many of the concerns are vocalized by “people who don’t understand downtown” York.
He won’t need metal detectors or things like that, Spencer said: “We’re not a hole-in-the-wall kind of place that caters to that. So if you don’t cater to it, (troublemakers) don’t want to be here.”
“I just wanted to put an aspect of this business in York, because it’s a growing city, and I want to be a part of it,” he said.