Jason Crosser has been collecting video games, arcade and pinball machines along with other retro gaming memorabilia his whole life. He recalls when he was 10 and would ride his bike around town with his friend Josh looking for Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games at garage sales.
After moving to Southwest Florida from Iowa and settling into a house with his wife, it was time for Crosser to downsize his collection. That’s when he opened 8-Bit Hall of Fame nine years ago off Bonita Beach Road only a mile from the beach. 8-Bit Hall of Fame had become known as a local treasure to those who have a passion for video games from all decades.
“I opened the shop there in Bonita and I just signed a one-year lease, and I thought all my stuff would sell within a month and I would have to just pay for an empty place for the rest of the year,” Crosser said. “People brought stuff in really fast, I got known in the area for paying fairly on stuff, so word of mouth spread on that. Then everybody’s bringing stuff in to sell off to me, so it filled up pretty quick.”
At first, Crosser had only a 900-square foot space for his rapidly growing business. In 2017 when the adjacent yoga studio closed, the landlord of the building allowed Crosser to expand into that 1,700-square-foot space, giving 8-Bit Hall of Fame more than 2,500 square feet of retro gaming galore.
When Hurricane Irma came through Southwest Florida in 2017, Crosser took two days to take everything out of the store and bring it to his house in a U-Haul truck. Since Irma did more damage to Crosser’s Golden Gate Estates home compared to 8-Bit Hall of Fame, he went with a different game plan for when Hurricane Ian was predicted to hit the area Sept. 28.
“When this hurricane hit, it was supposed to go to Tampa and so I didn’t take anything out and I figured I took everything out of the store last time and I had about a fourth of the stuff, so this time it would’ve taken me at least a week to get it all out,” Crosser said. “I figured I took it all out last time and the storm went right over my house and damaged my house so I’m going to leave it here because they were saying the same with as with Irma that it was still going to go north and nothing happened to the store last time.”
Hurricane Ian brought a devastating consequence for 8-Bit Hall of Fame, which went completely under water during the storm surge. Crosser lost his entire inventory.
“There was probably 20% of my inventory still left in the store but it was just kind of spread everywhere because the whole building went under, so 80% of the inventory was washed away,” Crosser said. “I opened up [a Nintendo 64 console] and some N-64 games and it was all set in salt water for a day so everything was tarnished already.”
Crosser recalls sitting outside his store the next day as people were approaching him and giving him pieces of his collections that had been carried away by the storm surge.
“Everybody was giving me games back and records, like all the vinyl records,” Crosser said. “People were saying that my games were a mile east and a mile west. They were just everywhere.”
The wreckage brought to 8-Bit Hall of Fame left Crosser with an uncertain future. He may decide to return to his hometown in Iowa and pursue a new store while being closer to family or start something new locally.
“Right now, it’s kind of trying to figure out what to do next,” Crosser said. “I‘ve started talking to guys that I know that have big collections in the area and just trying to buy collections right now, hopefully starting a store either down here or up in Iowa.”