Daily, thousands are flocking to local Internet cafes in scenes reminiscent of European cafes. The cafes are becoming a gathering place in urban neighborhoods.
Oregon resident Marvin Dabish owns three cafes — one at 3555 Navarre Avenue next to Buffalo Wild Wings in Oregon, at 213 Main Street in East Toledo, and at 536 South Reynolds Road in South Toledo. Like many others, the East Toledo cafe is open 24 hours.
Marvin is president of Players Club Internet Cafe, and his brother Robert Dabish is involved with the marketing. They operate a total of 13 cafes in Ohio and Georgia. In Ohio, they also operate cafes in Columbus, Springfield, Fremont, Fostoria, and Findlay.
Four cafes are owned by Marvin, and the others are franchised. Marvin says they would like to have as many as 50 operating someday.
Marvin, who ran for mayor in Oregon and lost in the primary to then-incumbent Marge Brown and current mayor Mike Seferian, also owns Toledo Food Center grocery store on Main Street in East Toledo.
The brothers say the grocery business requires long hours and hard work, and the cafes are an extension of that business.
“They are all doing well. We are very proud of the places that we have opened. We had seen it elsewhere in Miami, Florida, liked the idea of it and brought it to Ohio,” Marvin said. “They are spending time, it’s enjoyable. It’s a place where you can relax and get your mind off of everything. We offer services like print papers, fax, copy, do your homework, and you can roam the Internet for hourly rates.”
The Dabish brothers were among the first to set up the Internet cafes in Toledo. Inside, food and beverages are complimentary.
“In Europe, when you go overseas, these are like at every corner because it’s something you walk in, you have coffee, you relax and have a paper, and you check your e-mail,” Robert said. “They don’t have the luxuries like we have here in the U.S. You know what I mean? To implement that idea here in low middle income areas where they can’t afford it, it’s the same thing.
“We are just the same as they are. They are 5,000 miles over there, and they are no different than us,” Robert added.
Robert believes the demographics of older neighborhoods in East Toledo are similar.
“This area being the way it is, let me give you a huge example. I have a lot of Internet hour sales over here — tremendous,” Robert said. “And I’ll tell you why. People don’t have a computer around here. People can’t afford a computer.
“The average income around this place is $20,000 to $24-25,000 a year. Even if they have a computer, they will be on My Space or whatever and they will get crashed because of viruses. No one wants to fix it. They don’t want to spend $100 or whatever to fix it,” Robert continues.
“They come to my place, and I’m lowering the promotional rate for the next six months. They come in, they use the work station, and I’m going to have Microsoft Office on there, I’m going to have Internet Explorer, and everything they need.
“They can print their work, do anything they want, and if they crash that computer it didn’t hurt anything. I can go fix that. I have tech guys on staff and it’s done. You know what I mean? So, it’s really beneficial to people who can’t afford to have Internet. For people who really want it and want to be there surfing this and that.”
The business has also expanded from the Internet into computer sales and repair.
“Right now, we are also repairing I-Pods — anything to do with Internet and Internet cafe. We are trying to work a deal out with Apple and other companies because to bring Internet you have to have Internet items as well. For instance, I-Pods, I-Pads, laptops, computers as well, and we even make a Players Club computer to sell. Stuff like that,” Robert said.
“That was my marketing approach to them (Apple), and to Microsoft and to a lot of people. I’ve got clients who come in here, maybe 1,500 people a day on the average. When they come in, they are looking at the products, seeing the products. Why not purchase them from me? Why go all the way to Best Buy? Especially in the Toledo market area — you know, one Best Buy in I don’t know how many square miles. Why not have little stores here and there for the same price?”
“We started out small last December, and you learn as you go. We are starting to expand our line. We started out just by selling phone cards but now we are trying to expand our business out. It’s just like anybody else,” Robert added.
One of the attractions is regular raffles — often for televisions or computers.
“We have a lot of promotional give-aways. It’s just like any other marketing tool — it’s about bringing them through the door, you know what I mean?” Robert said.
“It’s like saying, Cheerios (holding a box of cereal), and any other new product line, well, they are going to start giving out boxes like crazy. It’s the same thing we are doing here. We made some deals with companies, like Samsung, to bring people in the door, you know. Free Samsung give-away, today, come on in. It’s just a way to boost up traffic for the business,” Robert continued.
Another attraction is the daily Casino-style sweepstakes games. The Dabish brothers are concerned that residents will see advertising and believe illegal gambling is going on inside.
“Really, what they think and what the law actually states is two different things,” Robert said, explaining the sweepstakes are another marketing ploy.
Marvin added, “They surf, and the majority of the business is they play the sweepstakes games to reveal their prize. The Internet cafe is a place you can go and buy long distance phone time, and with long distance phone time you get sweepstake points, and with sweepstake points you can play casino-style sweepstake games to win cash prizes.”