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Video games van on a roll

September 17, 2009 by By Gretchen Metz, Daily Local News

Staff photo by Amy Dragoo

Jim and Denise Sheehan play some of the games hosted on the Games2U mobile entertainment unit.

Happy 11th birthday, little Trevor. Like to invite your friends over for some musical chairs or pin the tail on the donkey?

Chances are little Trevor won't answer since all his attention is focused on his Xbox 360 and his brand-new "Need for Speed: Shift" video game.

The video generation's idea of fun isn't a parlor game. They want action, they want graphics — and Jim and Denise Sheehan want to fill that niche.

The Glenmoore couple, both 43, are the new owners of a Games2U franchise.

As the name implies, the video games set-up travels to the customer.

This isn't your grandmother's party.

"Parties are customized," Jim Sheehan said. "It's all about their day, making (the birthday child) king for a day."

Buying the franchise is pricey. Financing is available.

The initial investment is $93,050, which includes a $35,000 franchising fee.

The franchisee can choose either a gooseneck trailer towed by a beefy pickup at $208,000 or a van at $156,800. The van and the trailer are equipped with flat-screen TVs inside. Outside is set up for video games that require more movement, such as "Rock Band."

The Sheehans took the van option, figuring it is easier to pull a van in and back out of customers' driveways, or in a park, if that's where the customer wants to hold their child's party.

Sheehan's van has three 42-inch flat screens inside connected to an Xbox. Opposite that is bench seating that can accommodate 12 party goers who can choose to have different games on each TV or be linked to the same game on all three. There are strobe lights and a fog machine to heighten the experience.

"Kids that didn't even know each other are now on a team and work together," Sheehan said.

Vehicles come wrapped in an attention-getting Games2U corporate logo and other promotional material. For the franchisee, the wrap gets refreshed from time to time, Jim Sheehan said.

Parties start at $199. Laser tag is additional. Cost is based on time, not head count.

Sheehan decided to go with the franchise after his company was bought out and he was laid off. When the phone wasn't ringing with job offers, he took matters into his own hands.

"I wanted to do something for myself," Sheehan said. "I looked at franchises and this had great potential even in this market."

The business launched Sept. 1. Its territory is Glenmoore to Paoli, though the Sheehans have done parties in New Jersey, which has no franchisee, yet. Once the business is more established, Sheehan said he will stick closer to home.

For Denise Sheehan, who is starting her own nutrition and catering business, the flexible schedule of Games2U was a big selling point, as well as the opportunity to work with children.

And for Jim Sheehan there was another plus: He has been a gamer for years.

Now after a couple of weeks on the job, he's found he is not the only big kid when it comes to video games.

The entrepreneur said at parties when the children are off playing laser tag or eating cake, many times the adults sneak into the van and play the video games themselves.

Besides children's parties, Sheehan does tailgate parties for adults. While the game is on outside, inside football fans are playing "Madden 10," making their own plays.

"We come in and do everything," Sheehan said. "The parents can relax or join in and have fun. The children have a good time, the parents have a good time because we're doing all the heavy lifting."