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November 03, 1995 - Image 51

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-11-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

mess



Above left
Mary Clare Pulte, co-owner of
Big Surf Cyber Cafe.

New cafe aims to draw the
computer- and
coffee-literate crowd.

FRANK PROVENZANO

SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

couple of days before opening night, the Big
Surf Cyber Cafe in Birmingham had the look
of a high-tech beach hut.
There isn't sand, nor sun and surfboards.
All that is required is a blanket of curiosity
and perhaps some lotion to protect against
long exposure to cyber rays.
Despite the fall chill, carpenters put
the finishing touches on a Bermuda mo-
tif and placed the rattan furniture in an arrangement
conducive to socializing. After all, with a coffee bar, espres-
so machine and delicate pastries on display, the place
retains some semblance of a coffeehouse. At most other
coffee cafes, however, the computer-geek touch is less
obvious.
"We want to bring people together," said Mary Clare

Pulte, a co-owner along with her husband, Robert. "We
think this is a way for people to interact as they're using
the Internet."
Accessing the Internet via the 15 high-speed desktop
terminals at tables around the cafe provides the "plat-
form" for the topics of conversation. Patrons will likely
engage in esoteric comparisons of megahertz, software
proficiency and cyber ambitions. It may sound like a
futuristic setting, but this reality is hardly virtual.
Big Surf Cyber Cafe opened its doors on Oct. 16. To
most newcomers to cyberspace, sitting down for a cap-
puccino with a 90-megahertz link to the Internet at your
table is like having tea and crumpets while riding along
with John Glenn to another uncharted frontier.
Armed with evidence from a market study and a strong
dash of entrepreneurial optimism, owners of the cafe be-

lieve that most people would
rather navigate the Internet
while sipping espresso than
Above:
hack away alone, tipping their
Bob Pulte, Mike Walsh and
own brew.
Mary Clare Pulte pool their
With a quick cost estimate
talents.
of the computer hardware and
the training of a staff of 22 coffee/computer experts, it
is strikingly clear that this virtual beach house is built
on plenty of capital — and sheer guts.
It may seem that the Internet is an inevitability of
American life, but using it tends to be a solitary pursuit.
Whether it has potential to start and solidify friendships
outside of cyberspace remains to be seen. Then again,
who predicted that a dried little brown bean would spawn
an industry of cafes and specialty coffees that has kept
keen entrepreneurs awake counting profits?
Ten months ago, co-owner and computer wizard Dan
Barron, a visionary according to Ms. Pulte, was capti-
vated by a successful London cyber-cafe called Cyberia.
Mr. Barron, who sells computer and camera equipment
to the medical industry, captured the imagination of Ms.
Pulte and her husband Robert and cafe co-owners Mike
Walsh and Bryan Pulte.
Mr. Barron now wears the high-tech title of CCO, or
chief conceptual officer. The Pukes provide the sales and
building experience. Ms. Pulte formerly worked in radio
sales and Robert Pulte owns Manor Homes, a custom-
building company in Bloomfield Hills. Bryan Pulte is
Robert's brother and is an interior designer in Denver,
Colo. •
Meanwhile, Mr. Walsh brings a West Coast coffee-
shop management style. A master of business adminis-
tration graduate of the University of Michigan who ran
a coffeehouse in Seattle, a town considered to be the birth-
place of the contemporary cafes, he plans to introduce a
new bean in the metro area titled "Seattle's Best Coffee."
The Big Surf Cyber Cafe is the first of its kind in the
CUCKETY page 52

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