SHAMOKIN, PA, USA — Three enterprising men, knowledgeable in the fields of contracting and computers, are working on a new franchise that will bring people together both in person and online.
Shawn Dick and Jim Rafter, both of Shamokin, and Justin Hendricks, of Coal Township, are the founders of Shamokin Unplugged, a Web site that brings residents and former residents together over the Internet. Their next venture will be the creation of the city’s first Internet cafe, on the second floor at 42-44 W. Independence St., above Weekend Furniture.
“We want to make this a great place for everyone to hang out and play some games, for young and old,” Dick said. “If we find anyone who is getting out of line, we will show them the door or call the police if needed.”
Dick got the Shamokin Unplugged franchise going with the creation of the Web site almost three years ago.
“My first idea is that I wanted to create a humor site for Shamokin, but with the members putting in content, it took on a life of its own,” he said. “In the three years since it started, it has gotten pretty decent.”
Members can post messages, enter the chat room and view member-posted pictures (nothing obscene is permitted). There is also a matchmaker section, and “for sale” and auction sections are planned.
With the Web site firmly established, the three partners set their sites on creating a new, physical, business in town.
“I was sitting there working on the site, because I really can’t hold down a full time job with the bad heart that I have,” Dick said. “Jim called me and asked me if I wanted an opportunity to make this business happen, and could I do it. I said yes, and here we are today.”
Dick’s involvement was to reprogram and wire the cafe’s 10 computers. They will be available for the opening.
“There are probably a lot of questions about what will go on here, but we want to assure everyone that this will be a safe place,” Hendricks said. “We will be monitoring all of the posts on the forums that come from there, and all the computers will have CyberSitter programs, so there will be no inappropriate surfing going on.”
The cafe will also be nonsmoking, and no food and drink will be allowed near the computers, he said. Also, there will be wireless access for those with laptops.
Dick and Hendricks also hope to develop a room with a projection screen so players can take part in the many video games involving flight simulation.
The cafe has set access prices at $3 an hour for Internet access for research or surfing. The partners will prepare for Local Area Network (LAN) parties and tournaments.
“We will have tournaments with games such as Counter Strike, Halo, Call of Duty, games like that, with the winners receiving prizes like a DVD burner, games or cash prizes,” Rafter said. “We know that some of these things are expensive,” and this gives some less fortunate children a chance to obtain them, he said.
The other side of the cafe will feature two pool tables, three MegaTouch arcade games, video games and pinball machines.
“We are going to have a little bit of everything for everyone,” Hendricks said.
The operators will track high scores for games and post the listing, possibly awarding prizes for high school of the month, for example.
“We want to keep people coming back here and enjoying themselves in a comfortable setting,” he said.
There will be a number of food and drink items available for purchase.
The business will operate with professionalism, Dick stressed.
In addition, the owners are taking care of the neighborhood in which they live.
“You are not going to see the kids hang out on Independence Street, because we are going to have our patrons go behind the building to come in,” Dick said. “We do have a person living in the building where we are, and she really doesn’t deserve to be disturbed at night. There will also be Web cams installed inside to allow parents who leave their kids here to check on them to make sure they know where they are.”
The owners hope to have the cafe operating by month’s end.
“We just want the public to know that this is going to be a great place for parents to drop off their kids and know that they are safe,” Rafter said, “having a great time and doing something positive in the community, and not hanging on the street corner or getting in some kind of trouble.”