Propaganda (jennifer alejos)

Christmas Day is typically a day for families to celebrate each other with gifts and food. It isn’t necessarily known for being a day that people begin a business. AJ Martinez, owner of local retro video game store Propaganda Palace, says that his love for collecting video games started during the final days of 1977.

Martinez’s father worked for Atari and went store-to-store trying to convince retailers that carrying the relatively new technology of video games was something they should be interested in. This led to his father bringing home the early Pong models on weekends for Martinez to play. On Christmas Day 1977, he received a gift that would start a life-long hobby and lead to the creation of Propaganda Palace.

“When the Atari 2600 came out I was the first kid to have one on Christmas Day,” says Martinez. “Every kid wanted to come over to my house. I was surrounded by family, friends and food. Every kid in the neighborhood wanted to be my friend.”

He would go on to collect as many video games as possible over the next decade, but it took some time before he would realize that his collecting hobby could be turned into a profitable business.

“After that I started collecting every video game device when they became available. I was just a collector and had no intention of opening a business, even when I attended UTSA in the ‘90s.”

As time went by, Martinez built a reputation in the San Antonio community as “the video game guy” by going to every flea market, garage sale or shop that was selling anything video game related. Word got out that he had a massive collection of video games that could qualify as a sort of make-shift gaming museum. People would contact him just to see his legendary game library or to sell him games.

It wasn’t until the economic downturn of 2008 that Martinez got the idea to turn his collection into a business. Unemployed and under pressure, Martinez faced a Christmas that was a far cry from the joy of receiving his first Atari 2600 in 1977.

“That Christmas was the worst of my life because we had this heavy cloud over our heads,” Martinez reveals. “Then my wife comes up to me and says, ‘Why don’t you take your extra 48 copies of Zelda and put them on eBay and see what happens?’” That was the moment Propaganda Palace started to take shape.

Within months he was buying and re-selling games for a living, and by the end of 2009 he had opened up his first physical store. He stopped looking for a job as Propaganda Palace took off.

In the following years Martinez opened up another store and expanded into selling vintage records, cassette tapes, art, CDs, VHS tapes and much more. The store’s main attraction is still its selection of any video game product you can possibly imagine, from Atari to 3DO, Xbox to Collecovision, Virtual Boy to Wii.

The public has taken notice as Propaganda Palace has been voted the “Best Video Game Store” in San Antonio by the San Antonio Current each year since 2010. This award, determined by votes from San Antonio Current readers, shows how local consumers prefer the store’s experience and collection of games from days past over mega-corporation GameStop and rival retro game store, Game Over Video Games.

If you have a question about any product in the store, Martinez and staff will take just as much joy in explaining it to you as they would selling it. Propaganda Palace is a family friendly operation that provides a unique shopping experience for video game fans.

Martinez is grateful that his life-long love of video games has provided for him and his family. Instead of only playing games when time permits, Propaganda Palace enables Martinez to immerse himself even deeper into his favorite hobby.

“When I was younger I would go home and play video games for hours until I went to bed. I only worked because I had to in order to live. Now I’m able to hang out and talk about video games, and that makes me the luckiest guy in the world. It wasn’t planned, but I’m glad things worked out the way they did.”

Propaganda Palace has two locations, one at 2100 McCullough Avenue 78212 and another on 919 Alamo Street, 78210. They are open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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