Station022 opened quietly on Cole Street in December - so quietly that many locals who pass by a month later still wonder: what is it?
From the street-side windows, colorful and cushy couches that sit low on the floor can be seen, arranged in lounge-like formations around several flat screen televisions mounted to the walls.
Enter its front doors and you'll notice the X-Files era 'I Want to Believe' poster on one wall, an alien against the backdrop of Venice's St. Mark's Square on the opposite wall, and more posters for popular videos games including Call of Duty as you walk further inside. Against the back wall, you'll find a snack bar loaded with everything from candy to chips to Hot Pockets. And hot chocolate.
For young video game enthusiasts, this comes close to paradise. Station022, named for Enumclaw's 98022 zip code, is what co-owner Jennifer Kruse calls a social game lounge with a heavy emphasis on XBOX video games.
Brothers Collin and Braiden Gesterling have become regular customers at Station022. On certain weekdays, customers can enter the business for a nominal fee of $1 each and play to their heart's content.
Collin, 15, said the new business is something he and his brother, 6, can explore together. "It's fun because he's just as into video games as me," he said. "It keeps him occupied. ... we don't have to fight over the games and you can play whatever game you want."
Environment for Socializing
Kruse, with two teenaged boys of her own, acknowledges the stereotypical perception of modern video games is one that lends itself to anti-social behavior. But she and co-owner Erynn Petersen envisioned and built Station022 as a place that fosters the opposite of that, and she's seen that vision come to fruition already.
"I'm amazed just in the month we've been open, how many dads have come in with their kids," Kruse said. At home, parents who generally don't play video games with their kids will give it a shot here and the family ends up spending several hours playing together and as an extension of that, talking to each other, she said.
Kids who text each other on their phones even while in the same room will put their devices down. They're connected to XBOX and talking to players next to them. "They don't even realize they're doing it," she said. "We want to create a feeling of community ... and help them to feel comfortable in their own social groups."
Kruse and Petersen, who was away when Patch visited, made a conscious effort to hire part-timers that represented a diverse array of teen experiences, from student athletes to computer geniuses and everything in between.
"We had a sixth grade girl here recently," Kruse recalled, "who needed help with a game, and you should have seen these guys jumping to help her and even offering to play the game with her."
Because video games traditionally don't entice girls, and girls tend to socialize much differently than boys do, the owners are still looking into ways to convince the females to spend some time at Station022.
There are board games available along with wifi to connect to the Internet via laptop or another mobile device. Some dancing and music games tend to be more popular with girls as well.
Ogling their crushes from a distance might be one incentive, jokes Kruse, but "we want the girls to get involved in the technology too," she said.
The concept for Station022 came about this past summer, Kruse said, when her friend, Petersen, approached her about opening a gaming station in Enumclaw.
Kruse, who most recently worked at The Kettle, also helps run a dairy farm with her husband, while Petersen has a technology and business development background having worked for companies including Amazon, Microsoft and AOL.
Where their backgrounds differ, they are both mothers of teenagers in a town that doesn't provide a lot of things for young people to do in their free time.
Station022, located near the busy intersection of Cole Street and Griffin Avenue, is a place where parents can feel safe leaving their children, Kruse said. There is always an adult on-location and a near-constant police presence nearby to further enforce security on nights the lounge closes at 10 p.m.
"Kids who play games at home can bring in their profiles and continue playing here," Kruse said. "This is a place we though we would create this social environment where they're getting away from mom and dad and hanging out with their buddies. At the same time, we're also bringing this technology to more people."
But in case any young person thinks that is license to run amuck sans parental supervision, think again. Station022 is, after all, run by two moms.
"Moms ... we rule the world," Kruse said.
Pricing, hours, as well as announcements about upcoming events including family nights and a coding academy where teens can learn to create their own programs, can be found on Station022's website at www.station022.com or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Station022.