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Sherri Richards, Published May 21 2010

Section 9 Cyber Cafe: A business built on bandwidth

Instead of serving up food, Section 9 Cyber Cafe offers bandwidth, and lots of it.

Customers can pay by the hour, day, week or month to use one of Section 9’s 18 high-performance computers.

The business, which opened last fall, was started because six young 20-somethings wanted to create a high-tech gaming center in Fargo.

They approached Ken Sanford, father to three of the young men. He told them to draft a business plan, and they did.

“There’s centers like this all over the country and all over the world. I think we went a few steps further than a lot of them,” said Sanford, who worked in the beverage industry for 29 years.

In the lobby, brown leather couches face three wall-mounted LED high-definition televisions. Each is hooked up to multiple gaming systems, such as Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.

The back room is lined with the custom-built gaming computers. “You can’t buy these at Best Buy,” Sanford said.

Each features 6 gigabytes of memory and triple-core processors and is hooked up to 24-inch high-definition monitors.

The back room also has a 106-inch projection television, a classic gaming section with older Nintendo, Sega and PlayStation consoles, and a Battletoads arcade game. Section 9’s website lists 490 available PC and video games.

“They can play our games; they can play their games. They can download games,” said Tom Schultz, Section 9’s 22-year-old computer engineer.

Their largest demographic is the college-age crowd. There’s also the occasional business traveler who needs access to a spreadsheet or word-processing document.

“We see everything from elementary kids with their parents to a 50-year-old,” Stephen Sanford, 20, said. “We weren’t expecting people to follow us like they do.”

Section 9 also builds and repairs computers. Schultz said he built one customer a bare-bones computer for $400 and built another a $6,000 supercomputer.

While the six young entrepreneurs – Schultz, Greg Softing, Tim Rohloff and brothers Stephen, Sean and Rob Sanford – were focused on the cafe’s recreational opportunities, Ken Sanford said he saw its business application. He can imagine the back room being used as a corporate training center.

But Ken acknowledges that gaming isn’t his specialty. “We grew up gaming together, until it turned 3D,” he joked.

Thursday afternoon, Ashraf Kamel, a recent Minnesota State University Moorhead graduate, was playing Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64 in the back room. He comes to Section 9 once or twice a week.

“I like it because I can play pretty much everything I can think of. I don’t have to buy every system and have a nice computer,” Kamel said.

Business profile

Section 9 Cyber Cafe

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556