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Mini-golf, gameroom opens in basement of Eastworks

  • Dave Rothstein, left, and Stephen Gilson, both of Florence, play ultimate mini-golf at Prodigy Minigolf and Gameroom in the basement of Eastworks in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Lilian Valiunas of Northampton, left, looks on as her son Hudson Gable, 5, goes after a runaway ball last Thursday at Prodigy Minigolf and Gameroom located in the basement of Eastworks in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hudson Gable, 5, of Northampton, chases a runaway ball last Thursday at Prodigy Minigolf and Gameroom located in the basement of Eastworks in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Lilian Valiunas of Northampton, right, looks on as her son Hudson Gable, 5, putts the ball last month at Prodigy Minigolf and Gameroom located in the basement of Eastworks in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



@kate_ashworth
Sunday, April 01, 2018

EASTHAMPTON — Black lights glow and music thumps at the Prodigy Minigolf and Gameroom in the basement of the Eastworks mill building.

Neon putting clubs are lined up against a wall, stage lights illuminate each of the 18 holes and televisions are hooked up to retro video game systems.

Along with a complex mini-golf course that combines croquet and puzzles, Prodigy has around 500 classic home console games for gaming systems like Nintendo and Sega from 1978 to 2000, as well as bumper pool, foosball and air hockey.

“I just want to have fun and nerd out,” said Jeff Bujak, 38, who opened the new mini-golf course and gaming space last month.

Bujak traveled for years as a musician, first in a folk-rock, Americana band, and then solo performing electronic music. Those experiences have contributed to the game room’s ambiance.

Bujak said he has always had an interest in mini-golf and has won a couple of tournaments, thinking about one day opening his own course.

He decided to pursue his dream after seeing the success and community support his wife, Amanda Milazzo, received when she and another baker opened Small Oven on Union Street in 2014.

“Easthampton has something brewing,” Bujak said, who lives in Northampton.

To get inspired, he went to mini-golf courses all over the Northeast. He built a model hole in his living room and tested different materials, such as carpet, to see what would work best. The entire course was built by hand and incorporates croquet hoops to earn extra points.

Bujak has a mix of old-school videogames, many of them he played when he was young. He owned half of the consoles already, while others were purchased or donated from friends.

When picking the games, he looked through top-selling games for each console and went down the list. The cost for the vintage games has increased over the years, like Super Mario RPG for Super Nintendo, which cost $110.

He invested $30,000 into the business, which takes up about 8,000 square feet of space at Eastworks. Being in the mill building also gives him room to expand. The business has three employees, but Bujak said within the past week he’s seen a lot of interest.

On a recent weekday, Jenny Graves, a friend of Bujak’s, brought her sons Evan, 11, and Tyler, 9, from New Haven, Connecticut, to check out the new course and game room. Graves said her kids are new to mini-golf and haven’t played any of the 1990s games, although Evan like the current Mario games. “I’ve heard of a Game Boy,” Evan said.

The course is recommended for people ages 13 and up due to the complexity, but Bujak said kids can still have fun with the help of a parent.

Admission fee with unlimited game play is $10 on Wednesday and Thursday, and $12 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Bujak said he also plans to partner with Puzzled Escape Games at Eastworks to offer game packages.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.