By Jacob Factor, News Editor
For years, downtown Shawnee looked like a ghost town. No cars. No patrons. And blocks full of empty buildings.
If anyone wanted to have a fun evening, they had to go all the way to Oklahoma City for entertainment.
Shawnee couple Beau and Misty Dorrough were one of the many victims of Shawnee’s boredom epidemic.
They had to drag their five children all the way to the city and pay an arm and a leg just for one family outing.
“That kinda hurts,” Beau said.
That was the norm for a long time.
“You’ll see a lot of kids over spring break or the summer doing nothing.”
Last year, though, the Dorroughs got an idea on how to end the plight. Beau, a post office worker, repaired retro arcade games on the side.
“We owned hundreds of them,” Beau said.
The Dorroughs thought they could put the games to use and open an old-school arcade. So, they bought the building at 1 East Main Street downtown in late October 2018 and started planning.
“Right when we bought the building though, they opened the [arcade] down the street.”
Bell St. Retro Arcade is a welcome new business, putting some color in downtown Shawnee, but now the Dorroughs had to come up with a new idea.
The top two floors of the Dorroughs’ building are rented out as apartments, and the Dorroughs thought maybe renting out the first floor as well would be best.
They were brainstorming other possible business ideas when they found inspiration right in their own home.
Their children solved Shawnee’s boredom problem without even trying.
“Our kids love playing Nerf in the kitchen,” Beau said. “They’ll play for hours in such a small space.”
A Nerf Gun arena hadn’t even crossed Beau’s mind, as the main room on the first floor is a bit smaller.
But, seeing his family playing showed him kids can have fun with Nerf guns even in a spot like the first floor of their building.
Now, they had their business plan, but then came another problem.
The building hasn’t had a business in it for almost a decade. A lot of repairs needed to be done.
“We don’t have a ton of money, so we can’t pay for [contractors],” Beau said. “Most of the renovations we would have to do ourselves. We’re not professionals. We were scared about how we could get the building to where it needed to be.”
This was in January. In just over two months Beau and Misty, along with Misty’s brother and the one handyman they could afford, completely changed the building from an empty shell to a neon war zone.
“We painted everything,” Beau said. “Of course, when we painted the walls green, everyone thought, ‘marijuana shop’.”
When the Dorroughs bought the building, the lights had no light switches. Now they do.
Misty’s brother wired in a blacklight system so the arena can be glow-in-the-dark.
They put in neon trash-cans and tires for players to hide behind, and floor mats to have a soft floor instead of tile.
Now that almost everything is finished, the Dorroughs plan to open Nerfed Battle Arena April 6, and are hopeful for what Nerfed can be for the community.
“One, a really good place for the kids to have something to do,” Misty said.“There’s not enough of that in this town.”
It’s also a relief to parents who work all day. When their kids want to go do something, instead of trekking all the way to OKC after being at work all day, Nerfed is right down the road on Main Street. The Dorroughs want Nerfed to be more than just a free-for-all arena, too.
“We really want to make it more interactive,” Misty said. “We’ll have refs with whistles who can judge when someone gets out. There will be rules to make it more interesting than just go out and shoot.”
This isn’t a money making venture for the Dorroughs either.
“We don’t assume we’ll make a ton of money,” Beau said. “As long as it’s self-sufficient and everyone has fun, that’s it.”
Nerfed Indoor Battle Arena opens to the public April 6. Nerfed will be open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Visit nerfedshawnee.com for more information.