From far, it may look like a normal single-family home. But a close-up of this 1,000-square-foot converted game haven is due.
“This place feels like home,” said Hayk Grigoryan, 15. “I love coming to this place. It’s great to just hangout.”
Albert Hartfeld, a former GCC student, intended Game Fixx to be a business opportunity to fund his own independent filming projects, but the increasingly successful video game shop has turned into more than just an investment for Hartfeld; it’s become a safe hangout for the local school kids of Burbank and neighboring Glendale.
The shop is conveniently located less than a mile away from Burbank High School and John Muir Middle School.
“I wanted to get a place that felt like home for these kids,” said Hartfeld.
“I feel comfortable here,” said Jesus Esparaza. “At other stores people look at you. Here you just feel free and safe to just do your thing.”
Hartfeld, 28, opened the shop just last December, and though he has had admitted that “business could be better,” the shop, he says, is nonetheless growing in popularity.
“Everyone who walks into my store loves it,” said Hartfeld.
“The greatest thing is that so many regular kids come in and hang out for hours,” said Hartfeld.
“I would rather them hang out here than go out there and do bad things.”
Among the businesses’ many retail items, the store is home to a 65-inch big-screen TV. The TV is available for customers to rent time and play video games against one another in the store.
Hartfeld holds frequent tournaments in the shop for video gamers to compete against one another, using games like Microsoft’s “Halo,” as tournament themes.
The shop itself sells both new and used games, anime, toys, soundtracks, movies, candy, sodas, posters and systems, among many other items. Hartfeld even holds raffles, with brand-new game systems as prizes.
“My shop is pretty eclectic,” said Hartfeld. “I try to stay above other stores and always keep the newest things in stock.”
“I just want to inspire these kids to do something better,” said Hartfeld. “Sometimes, kids just need a place to go.”
But creating the newest local hangout was not Hartfeld’s original intention. In fact, the idea of Game Fixx came as an investment plan to make money in order to fund his filmmaking projects.
A former GCC student, Hartfeld graduated Hoover High School in 1991 and began courses at the college later that year.
He had been acting since he was 16, so when Hartfeld found himself “anxious to get into college, but kind of lost for a little bit,” his first instinct was to take general education courses and an elective in acting.
“I’ve always been interested in acting,” said Hartfeld, “but taking the acting course at GCC inspired me to continue with it.”
Hartfeld finally transferred to the Los Angeles City College Theater Academy in the fall of 1995. And while the academy gave him a three-year acting certificate, it did not provide him with any kind of degree.
Being 12 units shy of an associate’s degree at GCC, Hartfeld decided to enroll instead at the Miesner Carvell Acting School, a private acting academy. It was his time here, combined with his previous acting history that inspired Hartfeld to become a film director.
This interest in directing inspired Hartfeld to open Game Fixx as an investment opportunity to raise money to finance his projects.
Hartfeld is currently teaching himself about direction through books and has already shot some short films.
“I just want to do it all,” said Hartfeld. And with the financial boost from Game Fixx, Hartfeld plans to do just that in the field of acting and directing. According to Hartfeld, when he is able to hire more employees, he plans on auditioning for roles ranging from theater to television.
For Hartfeld, however, the growing success of the shop in all aspects has made Game Fixx more than just a business.
“This is my baby,” said Hartfeld. “No matter what, I will always keep it around.”
Game Fixx is at 403 E. Palm Ave. in Burbank.