I walk into the Net café and look around in surprise. This place is different. It isn’t your typical crowded, body-odour reeking Net café. There are a lot of customers gaming away and nearly all the computers are occupied with zombie-like gamers, but the store seems surprisingly clean and spacious.
I continue past the lone foosball table and toward the counter. A sign on the foosball table reads: Members only.
As I scan the store, I recognize several familiar faces.
But there is one familiar face that you are guaranteed to see here every night.
Edward Kim, 44, works at PC Power Plus every night until the wee hours of the morning. He says there is nothing special about his store, but one faithful customer begs to differ.
Ricky Ma, long time gamer who frequents Kim’s store nightly, says Kim’s business has very good management and excellent programs.
“They probably have the best networking program compared to other Net cafés,” Ma says. “I like it there because it’s not dirty over there, it’s very clean and the environment is very friendly.”
But the most memorable thing is not the networking. It’s the man behind the networking.
“The owner there is really nice,” Ma says.
Although most of these regular gamers may not know Kim by name, they recognize his well-managed welcoming environment. He is mild-mannered in his ways and, at first glance, nothing really distinguishes him from other similar business owners. But according to Kim, his wife says he is very strict.
“I kick out customers that don’t have basic etiquette. They don’t think of others. If they don’t keep basic etiquette, then I’ll kick them out,” he says.
The distinctive thing about this particular businessman is he says he doesn’t have “a business mind”.
“Most people think of money first but I do not,” Kim says. “I don’t care about the money. I just want good customers.”
He says he just wants the good customers to be comfortable in his store.
“I want to do my business with no trouble, that’s what I want.”
Kim has only been in Canada for five years. He emigrated from Korea and, after being unable to find a stable job, he decided to open his own business. PC Power Plus, Kim’s first business, is located in Richmond Hill at Highway 7 and Leslie Street in Times Square. He opened it with his wife.
“The first time I did not realize it’s difficult, but I have to survive in Canada. I think I need time to spend with the family,” Kim says. “On one side, I’m happy to get my own business, but the other side, it’s very difficult for me.”
Kim and his wife are working everyday from morning to night. Since his kids are in high school, he says he is able to constantly manage his business.
His store is maintained through a set of rules. As a result, some customers get kicked out.
Kim sticks to his rules though.
“At the first time, there were no rules at this shop because there were a few customers and I know that they know me so there were no rules. But more customers came and I realized that we needed some kind of rules to keep the right kind of customers in the store.
“I made the rules and made the nice customers comfortable in my store. I think that’s how it’s different from others. Sometimes I really feel sorry for the nice customers because they don’t need any rules but to keep nice people, there need to be rules and, unfortunately, the rules made the nice people inconvenienced sometimes.
“I made the rules so that people will think of other customers. I know the nice customers do not need my rules, but it’s fair. It can be an inconvenience for them, but it’s fair.”
Customers cannot be too loud, they cannot bring in outside food, they cannot loiter, and they cannot inconvenience others, unless they want to be booted from the store.
So why do people keep coming? Is it simply an elite few that keeps his business running?
It could be that his Net café has not shut down yet because of Kim’s rules that keep the right people coming.
“It’s good for me and good for my customers,” Kim says. “I make [loiterers] inconvenienced so they do not come back.”
This is the kind of business that works for Kim. Normally, you would assume that business owners would want to attract more new people. This isn’t the case for him.
But it works.
Satisfying his regular clientele has been very effective in making him happy.
According to Kim, safety and cleanliness are also very important.
These values are greatly appreciated by his regulars such as Ricky Ma.
Ma and his friends consider PC Power Plus their “second home”, since playing Warcraft III: Frozen Throne has become part of their nightly lives.
“It’s so different to play at a Net café rather than staying home and playing,” Ma says.
“It’s just that when you’re sitting together beside your friends and play together at Pc Power, you get to know more about that person.”
Kim recognizes Ma and his friends, as he knows most people coming into his store. It’s rarely extremely packed, excluding weekends. When it is crowded Kim will prioritize his frequent customers, helping them to wait only 10 to 20 minutes for an available computer, when it would normally be about an hour wait.
As I approach the counter and pay 20 dollars for 10 hours, I await the experience of receiving special treatment from this environment that many perceive as home. Countless hours are spent at this store by these gamers.
Through force of habit, Net café gamers usually stick to one place. They all want to find a place that they can safely and comfortably call “home”.
PC Power Plus’ methods seem to be evidently effective with its dedicated gamers. They continue coming back nightly. Kim offers a pleasurable gaming experience for loyal customers.
Maybe other Net café owners can learn from Kim’s unique business perspectives.