MERIDEN — February is the time of year when parents scratch their heads trying to find something indoors to do with their children.
Alex Ortiz and partner Eddie Troche think they can help. The two men, who service area businesses already, plan to open an ice cream and gaming center next month.
Downtown Freezy Freezes Game Zone is expected to open Feb. 2 in the first floor of 55 W. Main St., the former home of Middlesex Community College.
“You know how there is Chuck E. Cheese with Pizza, and Dave and Buster’s with food? Well we’re ice cream and gaming,” Ortiz said. “This way the kids can be more active and learn things.”
Ortiz and Troche approached landlord Henry Le for office space to service clients through their PWU Enterprise. The business provides merchant services from business registration to data terminals, e-commerce processing, and cash register systems. They also do printing, and install ATM machines, pool tables, dart games, pinball, punching ball machines and jukeboxes. PWU Enterprises has an office in Southington.
The men wanted to be close to their Meriden clients, which include La Poblanita Grocery and Deli, Sam’s Market, C-Town and the Downtown Coffee Shop.
Le had other ideas for the building. Instead of the partners leasing office space he wanted them to fulfill his dream of opening an ice cream shop downtown. He offered 3,500 square feet in the showroom and his own equipment if they developed an ice cream and entertainment recreation center.
“I said ‘why don’t you continue what I’m going to do,’” Le said. “I have all the equipment and materials ready to roll.”
Troche and Ortiz came up with the business plan to buy their ice cream from Praline’s wholesale operation. The business will also sell frozen yogurt, soft ice cream and smoothies. The ice cream shop has showcases, and tables and chairs. The outside walkway can be used for outdoor seating in summer months.
Praline’s helps market the business if you purchase ice cream from them, Ortiz said. The partners also purchased a $7,500 Beam Interactive game system and will have consoles for competitive gaming. More games, including 3-D virtual reality, will be added as business picks up.
The business also serves as a showplace for PWU Enterprises’ business services.
“We’re right here where all the businesses are,” Ortiz said. “Our business services are going to provide all they need. It’s really helping businesses get what they need when they don’t know what they need.”
Le said it’s important to help entrepreneurs fill the spaces downtown and he laments the closing of The Landmark Diner after only three months. Le also owns that building and assisted in its renovation.
“My goal is I want more business in downtown Meriden,” Le said. “Let him (Ortiz) run the business, he pays the rent that’s it. Every business you have to help them. Sometimes $100,000 is too much for them and they want an opportunity. If I can do it, I do what I can for them and then I help the city.”
City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest has met with the new Freezy Freezes owners and thinks it offers something of value to the community while serving as a one-stop for local businesses. The partners appear excited to open up in Meriden, he said.
“The ice-cream and interactive games that they are planning should give families with children a place to go and enjoy,” Feest said in an e-mail. “The business services side is also another added bonus for the area. They already do business with several of our local establishments.”
Le bought the five-story building from the state several years ago and hasn’t seen much activity until New Opportunities for Meriden leased space on the third floor last fall.
Ortiz and Troche also have long range plans with Le to open shared working office space on the building’s fifth floor.
“We’re not stopping here,” Ortiz said.