It’s a full house at Deno’s Arcade

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 19, 2001

Walking into Deno’s Card Room and Specialties is like entering another place and time.

Monday, March 19, 2001

Walking into Deno’s Card Room and Specialties is like entering another place and time. Antiques sit here and there among tables of men playing cards or reading the paper – and a 9-year-old golden retriever named Buster.

Email newsletter signup

Conversation runs the gamut from current events to card-centered short sentences. And standing at the counter watching it all is owner Deno Lecakis.

Now located at 107 Fourth Ave. NE in downtown Austin, Deno’s offers six tables for card playing, a pool table and a dart board. The business previously was located across the street, just east of where the Youth Activity Center-Downtown is located. Deno’s current location used to house Classic Awards.

Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, Lecakis said anybody from age 18 to 88 visits Deno’s to take in the atmosphere and a game or two.

"Right now my oldest customer is 85," he said. Some customers even choose to take Buster for a walk instead of or as a break from playing cards.

Lecakis runs his business with the help of assistant manager Jerry Salisbury.

Through many generations, the arcade was a fixture in Austin’s downtown. Lecakis said Chris and Joe Boch started the arcade and it changed hands at least two times before he bought it.

He charges customers an average hourly rate of $1.20 per person to play cards. He sells coffee, chips and pop at the counter and stresses no alcoholic beverages are allowed. He has cards and games for the customers to use inside the business.

He said most of his customers are reformed alcoholics. Others consider themselves too young to go to the Mower County Senior Center.

"It’s like a little club," Lecakis said of Deno’s.

Lecakis sees his business as a return to another era, when card rooms were more commonplace.

"At one time there were more than six card rooms in Austin," he said. "Now we’re just down to one."

He was born and raised in Austin and graduated from Austin High School. When asked what he wanted to do after graduating, he said, "I wanted to do just what I’m doing right now."

He is unmarried and his only "child," he said, is Buster. He is rather attached to this city: "I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t like Austin."

He plans to stay in Austin, at least into the foreseeable future. In the future, he expects to bring some arcade games into the building, but right now a few decks of cards are more than enough to bring Austin residents in.