By Drew Bergman
Down Highway 127, a couple miles south of Russell County High School and next to Welfare Baptist Church, a staple of local fun has returned to entertain. Mini Indy Go Kart Track and Family Fun Center, which had closed on March 8, just before the start of the spring season.
“We’ve been stocking up on PPE and sanitizer and redoing golf so we can sanitize all the balls and the clubs,” said Mike Sales who owns and operates Mini Indy with his wife, Lora. “For the games I’ve got sanitizer that lasts up to four weeks and is heat activated. You spray the games down every two weeks with it to be sure.” On top of the main sanitizer, machines and stations are wiped down at the beginning and end of every day.
Maintaining Mini Indy and keeping it safe for everyone to come and enjoy has been a priority for the Sales even before the coronavirus pandemic. “We have always been very mindful of keeping everything clean,” said Lora Sales. “Arcades and facilities like this tend to not have the best reputation [in terms of] cleanliness. When our kids were little we effectively lived here. We were up here all the time and just as I would keep my house clean, I would keep this place clean. What I want for my kids, I want for somebody else’s kids.”
Among the major changes apart from the increased sanitation is the golf kit return station, which has been moved indoors allowing the staff at Mini Indy to sanitize all the equipment between uses.
Lora Sales also works in healthcare and has taken the sanitation lessons she has learned in that line of work and applied them to Mini Indy. “I was on the front line of knowing what things could be a problem,” she said. “I’ve seen them go through the whole struggle of how to keep everyone safe.”
Even within the reopening have been additional challenges faced by Mini Indy. “It’s been kind of slow getting going here,” Mike said. “We missed Memorial Day, which is a big holiday around here.”
Apart from being the unofficial start of the summer outdoors season, Memorial Day weekend also holds a special place in the history of Mini Indy. It was that weekend in 2002 when the Sales first opened their doors to the people of and visiting Russell County.
Now after 18 years, they are welcoming in new generations of visitors and reconnecting with previous ones. “We literally built this from the ground up,” Lora said. “It’s my baby. I’ve raised it and now it’s officially an adult. I’ve watched my kids grow up here, and I’ve watched a lot of kids grow up here. Over the weekend, one of my very first employees, she was 15 at the time, and was here my opening year, brought her kids in. I felt like they should call me ‘Grandma.’”
Business has returned to the center and people are rediscovering the fun and enjoying the upgraded amenities. “I redid all the go karts last year,” Mike said, “repainted and redid all the bodies, rebuilt the motors on them, painted the frames, and put in new interiors and added another double kart for families with little kids that want to ride.”
The Sales are originally from Indiana, (hence the Mini Indy name and Indy Car look of their go karts) but with two decades raising a family and doing business in Russell County, this is their home, and is treated as such. “I spent a lot of time thinking about what people touch, what little kids touch,” Lora said. And with her first-hand knowledge and experience she and her husband and crew are going the extra mile to keep Mini Indy clean.
With so much open space on the property and the natural limitations of mini golf and go kart etiquette, the only area in Mini Indy that invites social distancing concerns is the arcade itself. But even inside the neon escape, the availability of different attractions and the natural ebbs and flows of business help to mitigate those concerns. “So far that’s not been an issue. 30 people is a lot of people here, and that’s pretty easy to space those numbers out,” Mike said. “Say six or eight would be playing golf, a group of about seven at go karts and they rotate.”
Apart from the three main stations, people also naturally spread out by taking a break to snack or grab a drink or even to gander at the prizes on the wall.
Locals and visitors from out of town also tend to visit during different times throughout the week and tend to come in naturally small family groups, further providing voluntary compliance with social distancing requirements.
All of which is to say that Mini Indy is back and ready to entertain. For more information you can visit their Facebook page or call at (270) 343-5533.
If you would like your business and its progress reopening featured in this paper, please email Drew at [email protected] to come by for an interview.