Editor's Note: Go Play! Retro Arcade was not selected as a top 25 finalist in the 2018 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, but owners Risa and Sonny Nardone said they will try against next year.  

BELMAR, NJ — Like many Belmar businesses, Go Play! Retro Arcade was closed when the last nor’easter dumped nearly a foot of snow on its Main Street doorstep.

So its owners Risa and Sonny Nardone stayed home on March 21, where Risa was on her computer and came across a call for entries in the 2018 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. And as they say, she took the ball and ran, entering the online contest that each year recognizes and rewards small businesses from across the country.

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The Nardones are vying for one of the contest’s 10 prizes —a grant of $7,500, $15,000 or the $25,000 grand prize — to purchase new games and equipment for their family-friendly arcade and party room.

Now that voting closed on April 4, the top 100 finalists will be announced on April 12 with the winners to be unveiled on April 24.

Nestled among a row of businesses between 11th and 12th Avenues, the arcade is a haven of fun for children of all ages, where each wall and a middle aisle are lined with amusements that blink, clink, plink and do all sorts of things. There are video games, racing simulators, pinball machines, skee-ball, basketball and an air hockey table. For the younger set, there are several crane games, guaranteeing a prize every time.

Tucked in the back is a party room with tables, sitting chairs and more games, including gaming consoles, foosball and a ping-pong table.

What makes this arcade even more special is that there are no coins, tokens or tickets needed to play. Upon entrance, there is a half-hour, hour and daily pass fee for unlimited play. In addition, Go Play’s party room rental rate also includes unlimited play.

With the arcade now in its fourth year of business, the Nardones know exactly how they would use the grant money.

“We’d like to get more classic games, like Frogger and Q*bert, and give our party room a fresh coat of paint and get some new furniture,” said Risa, who penned in her FedEx entry the compelling reason why she and her husband opened Go Play!

In March 2012, Risa was a successful sales professional when a ruptured brain aneurysm that required emergency surgery changed her life completely. Here is what she wrote:

“Thankfully, surgery was successful … I realized then my life would be forever changed. After 20-plus years in sales, I decided that seeing people smile and hearing people laugh would be a better way to spend the rest of my life! I wanted to provide a fun place for people to enjoy. And that is what we do!”

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