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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 becaus...

Greg Softing, Steve Sanford, Tim Rohloff, Sean Sanford, Tom Schultz and Rob Sanford
From left, Greg Softing, Steve Sanford, Tim Rohloff, Sean Sanford, Tom Schultz and Rob Sanford in the gaming room at the Section 9 Cyber Cafe in downtown Fargo. David Samson / The Forum
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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.

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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.

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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

  • Location: 14 Roberts St., Fargo
  • Ownership: Ken Sanford, Fargo
  • Hours: Noon to midnight Sunday through Thursday; noon to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
  • Contact: (701) 476-1337 or section9cafe@gmail.com
  • Online: www.section9cafe.com

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

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