We've had a lot of wonderful coverage from the media over the years. Here are a few samples of what people have been saying about us:
Links to full articles
Snipits and quotes
Internet cafes finding their niche
Computer labs for grown-ups' and game players
By Rob Kaiser
Tribune staff reporter
Published June 11, 2003
The Chicago Tribune
Screenz Digital Universe felt more like a hushed library than a buzzing cafe on a recent Thursday afternoon.
About 25 people were spread throughout the Lincoln Park hangout, quietly scanning pictures, updating resumes, clicking on investment portfolios and Yahoo e-mail accounts. One man, absorbed in a computer game, wore large headphones and bounced his leg repeatedly.
The only conversation, if you could call it that, was at the checkout counter.
"One hour, Doritos and a Pepsi," a customer said to Evan Kucera, the store's assistant manager, before planting himself at a computer in the back of the store.
From the "Computing Center" sign out front to the CD burners inside, the Screenz store on Clark Street represents the evolution of Internet cafes. Rather than simply using Internet access as a draw to get people to suck down more lattes, the latest versions target everyone from small-business owners who need specialized software for snappy reports to gamers who gather to compete in sophisticated online strategy contests.
At Screenz, Kucera said, "The food is really auxiliary."
Popular in many parts of Asia and Europe, Internet cafes initially appeared to be a brief phenomenon in the United States. Many closed soon after opening in the late 1990s as the dot-com fever faded and Internet access at home and work became commonplace.
Yet today, some survivors and a new crop of Internet coffeehouses, gaming centers and other variations of the concept are showing promise.
Daniel Kite, Screenz's owner, said many early Internet cafes were not well thought out. Little attention, he said, was given to location, marketing, the store's environment and other business concerns.
Today, many Internet cafes like Screenz go well beyond online access and coffee, offering computer repair, consulting services, scanners, CD burners and access to advanced software, like Adobe PhotoShop.
"There seems to be a whole new breed coming up now," Kite said. "You're finding a more sophisticated center."
Kite describes Screenz, which also has an Evanston store and plans to open another one soon in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood, as "a college computer lab for grown-ups."
The biggest challenge for Internet cafes is having enough unique offerings as more and more people get high-speed Internet access at work and home.
Many cafes market the ability to play sophisticated computer games either solo or with others. The most popular online games, like "Battlefield 1942" and "Half-Life: Counter-Strike," let a handful of people or more compete against another team. A team doesn't need to be in the same place, but it helps with planning strategy.
"It's the same thing as why people go to movie theaters or bars," said Sanford Betz, operations director of iGames, an association of independent gaming centers. "It's something you can do at home, but you do it in a social environment."
While nobody keeps track of how many Internet cafes and gaming centers are open, people in the industry say it is growing. Betz's group currently has about 250 members with existing stores and another 200 who are looking to open gaming centers.
Joe Zhang, founder of the Cyber Arena in Gurnee, said he tries to keep a balance between offering an environment for game players and business people.
"You have to do a combination of both," said Zhang, who plans to open a second location in Oak Park later this year.
While some cafes cater to travelers or people without nearby Internet access, others use it as a way to get people in and sell other services.
Kendall Culberson, manager of the Bean.net Interactive store on Chicago's South Side, said only eight people on average use the Internet at his store daily, but he sells three computers a day.
Many independent operators talk about opening dozens of other Internet cafes or franchising the concept, though Betz said nobody currently owns more than a handful.
Screenz's Kite is in the camp that is talking about franchising. He hopes to start opening Screenz franchises later this year in New York, Boston and other cities.
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune
Cyber cafes fail to deliver profits
By Robert Johnson
The Wall Street Journal Online
June 7, 1999, 5:00 PM PT
"The lesson, says Kite at the Screenz chain in Chicago, is better equipment and software. Consumers will still flock to a cyber cafe that features simpler, faster and higher-quality computer services than they are willing to pay for at home..."Our customers pay that only because we have designed a browser, and other features are integrated so that you only have to click once to use them all, including games that we have programmed right into each machine."
And offering great computer systems is much more important than brewing a great cup of coffee, says Kite. "Food and beverage sales are only about 13 percent of our revenue."
Further, Screenz interiors are more similar to modern offices than to coffeehouses. "Frankly, the idea of coffee with a computer is a nonstarter. Coffee and food will help get people to stay longer, but it won't bring them in."
Retail Design Twists & Turns
Retail Traffic, Oct 1, 1997
"Today's major design trends reflect the shrinking moments that retailers have to connect with their customers.
As retailers attempt to establish identity and build foot traffic, retail design is more and more a reflection of the evolving age in which we live. The pomp and extravagance of the 1980s has given way to a smarter, leaner 1990s sophistication. Retailers, in an information-rich, attention scattering age, are using eye-catching, user-friendly and functional concepts to help their stores stand out in shoppers' busy field of vision.
Coffee and the Internet Screenz Digital Universe has given the happy marriage of coffee and Internet services a new relative. The Chicago-based retailer has created a user-friendly, 1990s version of the coffee shop, serving old-fashioned java along with warp-speed Internet access. With dozens of CD-ROM entertainment and education software titles from which to chose, a network of 45 Pentium-based workstations are staffed by knowledgeable "Explorer Guides" to help first-time cyber surfers take advantage of the newest technology.
The design goal was to give high-tech a communal, friendly atmosphere instead of a techno-edgy feel. The brightly lit interior, natural woods, large graphic images, deep purples and golden yellows draw customers in as they walk by the store.
"The key [to the design project] was mixing socialization with computer fun in a space that was truly welcoming and comfortable," says Screenz's visual marketing and retail planning director Randy Sattler. "We're mass marketing the [store's] socialization aspect as much as we are the technology."
Cyber Cafes Sprouting Up in Chicago
By ADAM FENDELMAN
Personal Technology Reporter
"Screenz Digital Universe, located at 2717 N. Clark...and in Evanston at 1730 Sherman Ave., has less coffee but more advanced computer services.
Equipped with T1 lines, Zip and Jazz drives, scanners and printers, Screenz offers advanced computing services...
Through the shop's ScreenzNet service, customers can access the Internet, computer games or various software applications that allow users to create Web pages, edit photos and create business presentations. Personal training classes in Internet and word processing basics are also available."
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