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The amazing world of Joystiq

Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like playing a game of any sort? Merced native Andy Beltran sure hasn’t, and he has made it his mission to provide his hometown with as many fun activities as possible inside his new business, Joystiq.

Joystiq is an arcade bar that opened in mid-January located in the heart of downtown Merced at 325 W. Main St. Within the doors of the two-story building is 8,500 square feet full of fun, with walls decorated in unique patterns and multiple seating areas surrounded by literal hundreds of games. Whether they are arcade games, board games, modern or vintage video games, outdoor-style games like cornhole or even sports games on one of the dozens of televisions, there are games to suit anyone’s interest.

“Fun is my whole thing, and I want to have a place for everybody,” Beltran said. 

Beltran explained that the inspiration behind Joystiq came when he came across a similar venue while living in Philadelphia for work. He always knew he wanted to own a business one day like most of his family, and the experience at the arcade bar made his vision clearer.

“I worked out there in Philadelphia, saved up money knowing that I wanted to open up a business one day, and I always wanted to come back to Merced to do it because growing up here, there really wasn’t much to do, and once you get to a certain age, you look back and realize how amazing childhood is,” he said.

Launching the business was a long time coming, though. While still living in Philadelphia in 2016, Beltran and his family noticed that the building, which used to be home to a Taekwondo gym, came up for sale, and it was one of those opportunities that they felt they couldn’t pass up. Work to transform the building got underway when Beltran moved back to Merced in 2017, but his dream was put on hold due to the uncertainty brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We obviously didn’t know what was going to happen with the world, so we couldn’t really spend money. Like, we couldn’t plan for a restaurant if we didn’t know for certain about the future of the industry, especially at the height of those times, so we just had to take a step back, and eventually, the world started picking back up again,” Beltran explained. 

For those five years in between the purchase of the building to now, Beltran was able to put his creative mind to work in more ways than one. Not only did he come up with most of the wall and room designs on his own, but the furniture and art that accompany the space were built or salvaged by him and his family members.

On one side of the building, there is a baby blue wall with photos of dogs hanging, all in which Beltran says he found at an antique store. Above many of the arcade games and beside some of the large screen televisions are shelves displaying vintage video game consoles, each one being previously owned by he and his brothers during their childhoods. Upstairs, guests can also find a private karaoke room where the walls are filled with vinyl record covers from a variety of genres and eras. Visitors may also notice that the tables and chairs are made from secondhand items like pipes and scrap metal. 

“With the help of my dad and my brother, between the three of us, we built the tables, we built the bar and basically everything that you see in here,” Beltran said. “But as far as the interior design goes, it was all sort of from my head… People seem to really like it, which I’m happy about. It all kind of came together through trying to bring to life my extroverted character, just visiting different places, looking through a lot of Pinterest and just trying to piece things together.”

The experimentation doesn’t stop at the design, either, with Beltran incorporating a menu of a unique combination of American and Mediterranean food, which was also a gamble considering that he is Mexican and has no Mediterranean roots.

“I just really enjoy Mediterranean food,” he said with a large smile. “Merced doesn’t have anything like this, so I just wanted to bring it here. Mediterranean food is very healthy for you, too, which is really important to me. But we have the traditional burgers, fries and wings too since everybody likes those things.”

In the two months that Joystiq has been open, Beltran said that it has been an experience unlike any other, with it quickly becoming an afternoon and weekend destination for those looking to unwind, family celebrations and major events like the Super Bowl and most recently St. Patrick’s Day. 

“I’m happy that people are having fun and I hope it keeps going. I’m going to keep trying to put on different events like video game tournaments, comedy shows, live DJs, live bands, guest speakers, the whole shebang,” Beltran said. “Whether you’re an adult or child, there is something here for you. It’s just been exciting and a dream come true.”

Community members are encouraged to follow Joystiq on social media for the latest updates on games and events. They can be found on Instagram at @JoystiqMerced and on Facebook at Joystiq Merced.