An eclectic mix of commercial pursuits

NASCAR items, kids' parties, videos, a consulting firm

Business profile Honest Pierre's

August 16, 2006|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Honest Pierre's, which opened about three months ago on Gerwig Road in Columbia, is really several businesses in one.

It is a retail store selling refurbished video games and NASCAR collectibles.

It is a place for birthday parties, where kids can play video games and have their photo taken in a real NASCAR race car. The site also serves as the headquarters and office for owner Guy Pavageau's more serious business, a computer consulting company called Century Alternatives Inc.

Pavageau, 50, whose middle name is Pierre, said his consulting company employs 15 people who work for the federal government on site in Northern Virginia.

"I know it looks silly," Pavageau said, of having an office that's filled with video games and racing paraphernalia. "But for the size of the business and what we do, we don't really have a lot of traffic in our office. So we decided to do this and kind of condense our expenses and, hopefully, do something that is fun."

Pavageau, who lives in Columbia, has been a race car driver for more than 25 years, he said. He races with the NASCAR Busch East circuit, as well as with the SpeedWorld Challenge with the Sports Car Club of America.

About four years ago, he hired Kevin Myers, who was working at Win Kelly Chevrolet at the time. "I sold him three Camaros and two trucks over a two-year period," Myers said. "He just asked me if I wanted to continue selling cars for the rest of my life."

Myers, who is in charge of payroll and security clearances for Century, also serves as manager of Honest Pierre's.

Myers, who grew up in Glen Burnie, said he has always loved video games and arcades and about a year ago began selling pinball machines on eBay. He travels to warehouses and auctions in several states to find the machines and refurbish them, he said. He sells most and keeps some for himself.

"It turned into a pretty decent side business," he said.

More recently, Pavageau wanted a place to store some of his cars. Moving the Century business from a nearby office suite to the Gerwig Lane location solved several problems. Now, Pavageau can store his cars, Myers can display the games he is selling, and Century still has an office.

"We just moved the whole operation here," Myers said. "The whole retail end of it was kind of an afterthought because the space was here."

The only problem was that the location, at the end of Gerwig Lane, did not bring much retail traffic. The solution was to open the space to birthday parties.

An advertisement was placed in the Money Mailer -- ads and coupons that arrive in the mail. Myers said the first birthday party is scheduled for late this month.

The space is large enough for as many as a dozen youngsters between the ages of 6 and 12, Pavageau said. A two-hour party costs about $150, and includes pizza, soda and photographs of the kids in Pavageau's car.

While the kids are playing video games and racing remote-control cars, adults can use the slot machines and other games in another room, Myers said. These slot machines, also refurbished and sold by Myers, use tokens that cannot be redeemed for anything, and so are perfectly legal, he said.

The slot machines, most from Japan, sell for $199 to $399.

The video games range in price from $4,995 for a Daytona Twin that allows two players to sit side by side, using a steering wheel and stick shift to race cars on a screen, to $399 for a puzzle game called Ataxx!

Also for sale at Honest Pierre's are T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, "the usual line of NASCAR collectibles," said Myers.

Said Pavageau: "The store is a kind of outgrowth of the kind of activities I've been doing for years."

Honest Pierre's is at 9693-M, Gerwig Lane, Columbia. The phone is 410-290-7673.

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