By TA’LEAH VAN SISTINE For The Iron Mountain Daily News
IRON MOUNTAIN — Iron Mountain Rec Center founder and owner Dave Fraser has let his customers guide him on how to grow the business.
It’s helped him develop the former Ball & Christy Furniture Co. store right behind Wendy’s on Stephenson Avenue into a place to play arcade games, pinball machines, pool, cornhole and more.
Two pool tables became seven based on demand. Fraser now plans to install more basketball hoops after watching kids cluster around the one mini-basketball hoop.
While IMRC started in one room, Fraser has spread to the whole building, with plans to renovate more areas in upcoming months. The center remains free for all to enter.
Last year, when Fraser saw the building wasn’t being used, he asked the owner if he and others could race remote-controlled, or RC, model vehicles inside during the winter months.
Once Fraser’s lease for the building started in January, however, he said the IMRC transformed into more than he’d expected.
“Then I ended up buying a pinball machine and then another one and then another game and then another game and then it just snowballed,” Fraser said.
Before IMRC, several RC enthusiasts asked Fraser if he’d start stocking parts at his Grow Maxx store in Iron Mountain, explaining they otherwise had to go as far as Green Bay or Appleton for supplies.
Fraser began doing that about two years ago, as well as running an RC racetrack in the store’s basement.
With the COVID-19 pandemic requiring social distancing, Fraser said he realized the small space for RC vehicle racing at Grow Maxx needed to be expanded, which led him to look for other locations.
“I thought (IMRC) was going to be a RC racetrack with a hobby store inside,” Fraser said. “Now it’s evolved into this whole fun center.”
IMRC is being renovated in phases. After the first phase is completed, Fraser said he plans to add a restaurant and bar, axe-throwing lanes and concrete floors to replace the current carpeting.
Fraser hopes to start on that next phase, which he said will cost about $200,000, in two to three months.
When the concrete floors are polished, Fraser said he’d like to have an open roller-skating night once a week in the large, multi-use area. Again, multiple people suggested the roller-skating.
Other goals Fraser has for the center include more arcade games, a miniature soccer/hockey field, a golf simulator and a larger bathroom area.
IMRC hosted a rap concert June 12, and Fraser said he wants more concerts and shows in the future, along with comedians performing in the winter. He plans to scout in Appleton and Green Bay for comedians to perform at IMRC.
Currently, IMRC has a new jukebox, a projector and a Roku, so people can stream videos from YouTube and other platforms. One area has claw machines where kids are guaranteed to win a prize. In the basement, people on Friday nights play the card game “Magic: The Gathering.”
IMRC also has a plane simulator for those who are interested in purchasing an RC plane. IMRC employees can demonstrate how to fly and use RC planes through the simulator, before they buy the product.
RC car birthday parties — where kids get to race rental RC cars on the track — have already been “very successful,” but Fraser hopes adults at the parties with their kids will be more entertained with some of the other coming attractions like the axe throwing.
Fraser emphasized that IMRC is still in its “infancy” but said he is optimistic the business will become more busy with each new addition.
“It’s hard when people come in and see a first impression of these old carpets and things like that,” Fraser said. “Once we get the main renovations done, we’re going to start running some T.V. ads that are really going to showcase how good this place is.”
Throughout this past year with IMRC, Fraser said, “The community has actually been my biggest supporter.”
Carli Leet of Niagara, Wis., is among those supporters as an IMRC customer and good friend of Fraser’s.
She said she, her husband and her children all enjoy different aspects of IMRC — the RC track, claw and pinball machines and arcade games.
This place is something the community needs, she added.
“Dave’s a very caring, kind person and he’s doing everything he can out of pocket right now,” Leet said. “He’s trying to make it a better place for families and kids. It’s awesome.”