The setting is an upscale cafe, colored forest green and crisp white. Classical music wisps from hidden speakers and patrons sit sipping lattes at computer terminals.
In the back room, a businessman is presenting an idea to some of his peers using a 27-inch monitor connected to a computer.
Sound inviting? Opened for about a year now, Cafe Internet in Port Townsend is breaking even, and owner David Green is putting a new twist on the current craze over coffee and computers.
Green, CEO of a national medical device company and an orthopedic surgeon, is selling Cafe Internet franchises - where else? Over the Internet - and so far interest appears to be nearly as strong as a cup of espresso.
"We're getting inquiries from all over the world", said Green, who's trademarked the cafe's name and logo and has set up a web site for web surfers interested in opening their own Internet Cafe.
Computers at work. Computers at home. And now computers at the local cafe.
A year ago there were only a handful of cybercafes in the Puget Sound, and not more than 20 across the nation.
But according to a cybercafe guide located on the Internet, there were 15 in Washington as of last week, more than 100 in the U.S. and 200 worldwide.
"And we're the only ones that are franchising," said Kit Benge, marketing director for Cafe Internet.
Right now, there's only Green's single Port Townsend outlet on the books. But he said he has prospective franchisees lined up in Dallas, Texas, Tacoma and Whidbey Island, and would like to place at least two outlets in Kitsap County - one in Silverdale and the other in downtown Bremerton.
"All the (franchise) registration is intact," Green said. "It's very consumer protective. If it's approved in Washington, it likely will be approved anywhere. Washington's very tough."
Green and company are selling Cafe Internet franchises from $22,000, plus exclusive territory rights, and a monthly royalty fee of 8 percent of gross sales. By comparison, Subway charges a $57,000 franchise fee, a 10 percent monthly royalty, and offers no territory rights.
"You can own a Subway at one end of the mall and someone else could own one at the other end," Green said. "We won't do that."
The Cafe Internet deal includes the name, store design, location suggestions, training, operational and marketing support, and private-label coffee beans and syrups.
In addition, Green said the company is working with computer and espresso machine verndors and the Small Business Administration on putting together lease agreements and loans for potential cybercafe franchisees.
"We'll give attractive incentives for the first four or five that we open," said Green, who also operates the Mail Boxes Etc. franchise in Port Townsend.
There are two cybercafes already operating in the West Sound - CoffeeNet on Silverdale Way and Higashi Kaze Javahouse and Internet Link on Callow Avenue in Bremerton.
"I would say it's moderately successful," said Jaan Sunderlin, owner of the Callow Avenue location, which also blends in martial arts classes, an Asian import store, massage therapy and family counseling.
Sunderlin has three computers linked to the Internet in his coffehouse, which he estimates are used about 25 percent of the time.
One of the challenges of a Bremerton location is the lack of foot traffic like that generated from apartment-based communities on the other side of the Sound. There also are no large, activity-based hubs in West Sound like Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, or the University District, Sunderlin said.
"I think it would be a productive venture if you could find the right location," he said.
Meanwhile, Green said Cafe Internet is working on plans to eventually offer it to customers to access virtual reality equipment through its stores. He said such a move would serve as a further incentive to franchisees, who would lease the equipment and charge customers to use it.
"It's a win-win all the way around," he said.
Business Editor Keven Dwyer contributed to this
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