Vintage play and colorful sweets

New business brings arcade games and unique sodas to San Juan

​Marcus, Chris and Natalie Baker at their arcade and specialty soda shop on Third Street in San Juan Bautista

Arcade video games and an ambrosial selection of fizzy drinks are the stuff of dreams to an eighties kid, and for both, there is Sweet Machine, San Juan Bautista’s newest business in its historic downtown.

Classic games like Millipede, Frogger, Sega’s Out Run, Double Dragon and the first-ever first person 3-D shooting game, Xybots from Atari, line the walls while in the center of the room is Sing-a-long, a vintage pinball machine made by Gottlieb, one of the arcade golden era’s premier manufacturers.

“It was released in 1967 and is entirely electro-mechanical – real bells go off when you play,” said Chris Baker, co-owner of Sweet Machine, with wife Natalie. “It is one of the shop’s biggest draws so far.”

Just in time for the busloads of children who will soon take over the town on their school field trip to the old Mission, the shop carries an assortment of candy and about fifty different specialty sodas in bottles, from the old-fashioned root beer and Sarsaparilla to unique flavors like chocolate raspberry truffle, caramel apple, candied bacon cream soda and peach.

“We literally have all different kinds and brands – Jelly Bellys, Faygo, Dad’s Rootbeer, Jaritos, Empire – and we hope to expand,” said Baker.

As for the video games, which cost from a nostalgic 25 cents to a dollar per play, Baker, 32, found most of the twenty machines he picked up online.

“We got them one-by-one, typically on Craigslist,” said Baker. “They are not difficult to find, but it takes longer to get them in the right working condition and price. Also, you have to pick them up. We got a minivan just for that purpose.”

The arcade games are fragile, he said, and most were in need of repair.

“I worked on the minor repairs myself and I also have people to consult with – YouTube has a lot of videos and I taught myself how to do it,” said Baker, a first-time business owner who built a career in retail.

“My wife and I have both been in retail all our lives. We actually met working at Best Buy, so we have a lot of experience directly interfacing with customers and know what they want.”

The couple, with son, Marcus, 4, live in San Jose, but have been coming to San Juan throughout their courtship.

“My wife’s mom and step-dad live in San Juan and Natalie has about 300 family members in Hollister. If you know anybody in Hollister with the last name Andrade, they are probably related to my wife.”

Baker said that opening a business in the historic town has been wonderful.

“I really loved this town from the beginning. It’s historical significance and the look and feel,” he said. “We are on board with what San Juan is trying to do – bring people in while keeping that personal character at the same time. When you start your own business you do more work than you did before, and you don’t get paid, but it’s been a great experience and a lot of fun.”

Sweet Machine, 304 Third Street, San Juan Bautista. 831-593-5015.

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