I woke up this past Saturday in a warm house, surrounded by snow capped mountains as Friday’s storm dumped rain on L.A.’s suburban west valley. It was a beautiful, crisp morning as I headed out the door at 7:30AM to drive 50 miles towards East L.A. so I could support Caine’s Arcade.
I exited Mission Rd. and immediately found myself in what looked like another country. The graffiti-lined industrial road was packed with auto body shops. There was dude after dude standing outside in the street, trying to get me and other passing cars into their shop like they were competing parking lots on Sunset Blvd. It was extremely humbling.
“Most of our business has gone online because we really don’t get the walk up traffic like we used to. So Caine’s chances of getting one customer is pretty hard,” said Caine’s father, George.
I arrived shortly after 8:20AM where only a few people gathered in front of Smart Parts Aftermarket. I initially drove past the shop, expecting to get a cue from a giant crowd out front. I had navigation in my car and still managed to pass the shop (that’s how many auto body shops there are on this street). I turned around and found a spot down the street, said “goodbye” to my car, and walked towards Caine’s Arcade.
Caine Monroy is a 9-year old boy who spent his summer vacation building an elaborate DIY cardboard arcade in his dad’s used auto parts store.
Caine dreamed of the day he would have lots of customers visit his arcade, and he spent months preparing everything, perfecting the game design, making displays for the prizes, designing elaborate security systems, and hand labeling paper-lunch-gift-bags. However, his dad’s autoparts store (located in an industrial part of East LA) gets almost zero foot traffic, so Caine’s chances of getting a customer were very small, and the few walk in customers that came through were always in too much of a hurry to get their auto part to play Caine’s Arcade. But Caine never gave up.