Fast service at Internet cafe
June 9, 2008 · Updated 6:46 PM
"Gary Chambers had it all. A successful Internet business. A home office. The ability to set his own schedule and answer to no one.But he got lonesome.And that led to a new business - Creative Internet Center.This is a European-style Internet cafe - a gathering place where people can come and meet, use a computer, drink coffee and socialize, said Chambers.The business, which Chambers owns with wife Tricia Borgardt, is located at 578 Winslow Way East, the porch next to Bainbridge Coffee. The cafe has six computers, three of them equipped with cameras for teleconferencing. Several of the computers have 3-D capabilities for dedicated video gamers.Hours will be Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a shut-down for lunch from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Computer users will pay an hourly fee of $9, with a $3 minimum. That will include most types of office software and Internet access. Extra services like photo scanning and compact-disc burning will also be available.Two markets are targeted, Chambers said. One is the business community, which will be home-office workers who either want to get out and socialize or who need high-speed connection, and also people waiting for the ferry who want to pop in and check their e-mail or send a quick message, he said. The other market will be the kids - the video gamers. This will be a place for the kids to come and relax in a safe environment. Despite the cafe name, the business provides neither food or drink - just Internet service. Coffee and snacks are available next door.Having the coffee shop available to us is a nice bonus, Chambers said. It's a symbiotic relationship. The businesses help each other. The new venture is an extension of Creative Music, a business the two started in 1996. Creative Music, which sells sheet music over the Internet, was successful enough that Chambers could quit his Seattle high-tech day job in 1999. The first six to nine months I was working at home was a real honeymoon, Chambers said. But after awhile I wished there was some place I could go to socialize. And Trish told me I was losing my social skills.So he left home, and set up a combination office and computer cafe in the small space recently vacated by Barefoot on Bainbridge, a failed craft gallery.The Internet music business was globally based, Chambers said, but it was very isolating from the community. Creative Music needed to get out of the house. I realized we could meet two needs by providing for the island what I wanted for myself.Besides the social issue, Chambers also addressed a technical problem. He offers high-speed, high-capacity connections, which are unavailable on much of Bainbridge.There are high-tech workers in the city who could telecommute one or two days a week if they had fast Internet access available to them, Chambers said. We can provide that. Being able to avoid the commute even one or two days a week takes the pressure off, and will make some islanders happier people.For Chambers and Borgardt, success is measured not in money, but in a congenial lifestyle. The two met in college in Fresno, Calif., and moved to Bainbridge in 1994.Chambers, who had taught piano and sold computers in California, plunged into both the Seattle high-tech community as a technical-support person and a network administrator, and into the sheet-music business. Borgardt got into the business end of health care.Those activities filled their wallets but not their spirits. So Borgardt took a mental holiday, as she called it, and started tending bar at the Harbour House Pub, where part of her job was ordering the wines.She went to work at Bainbridge Island Winery, finding a niche. And in October 1998, she accepted an opportunity to go to Germany for six months and work as an assistant winemaker.Because of the time differences and our work schedules, it wasn't practical to keep in touch by telephone, she said. But there was an Internet cafe in the ground floor of my apartment. So we kept in touch that way.In March of 1999, Chambers quit his Seattle job and joined his wife in Europe for three months of travel. And he kept Creative Music going, accessing it in Europe's ubiquitous 'Net centers.When they got back to the island in June 1999, they decided to stay out of the fast lane. Borgardt became the wine steward at Town & Country, where my homework is not bad, she says. Chambers tended to Creative Music and now to the cafe.We took a big financial hit, Borgardt says, but these moves allow us to live life on our own terms. "