By: Jason Sheppard
The Province’s newest games venue isn’t just for gamers – it offers something for everybody
Have you ever wanted to experience the thrill of extreme downhill skiing without having to travel to the Swiss Alps? Or feel what walking the sandy ground of planet Tatooine from Star Wars might be like? How about fighting for the championship belt inside a boxing ring? Thanks to two inventive local entrepreneurs, Stephanie Pennell and Mike McDonald, you can experience these situations for yourself at their new business, The Hangout.
Pennell, with 20 years experience in retail, customer service and management says the time was right for them to open their own business. “This is just the right time,” Pennell tells The Herald. “We really took the time and put our heads together. ”
McDonald, who has two diplomas in accounting, realized fairly quickly into that profession that it wasn’t for him.
The couple began talking about starting their own business – one that would become a passion project for them this entire year.
Their idea: A “hangout” for kids to play games but also offereing something for everyone; seating for board and video games, a cafe serving tea and organic coffee, a place where parents and grandparents can bring kids while they can go have a coffee or sandwich. However, the main attraction are the virtual reality game systems which immerses the player into a new world of environments and situations.
Something for Everyone
The pair did their research and discovered these places were popping up all over Canada. The duo spent three months preparing their business plan, which included describing what virtual reality was. “VR is something difficult to talk about or write about,” explains Pennell. “It’s like trying to describe to someone the feeling of what it’s like riding a roller-coaster. You have to go through it.”
These VR systems have educational purposes as well insists the couple. They can be used for training in job simulators and can take the viewer all over the world using games like Google Earth.
In order to go through one of their VR systems, the player is required to wear goggles and ear-buds and then their surroundings disappear. ”You’re totally immersed,” McDonald explains. “What’s in the goggles is what you’re seeing and hearing. It’s the closest thing to a real-life action experience.”
Once they knew what business they wanted to create, they needed a location.
“We found out that there was a need for a place where kids or teenagers could go in CBS so we saw an opportunity there,” said Pennell. “CBS just seemed ideal and we very much wanted to be a part of the community.”
Located at 54 Conception Bay Highway, The Hangout is close to Manuals River. McDonald says the support from the town has been “phenomenal” and that feedback has been encouraging.
With a multi-purpose room for birthday parties, a race car chair, four video game seating areas, about 70 games and a cafe, The Hangout is certain to appeal to families. Pennell and McDonald will be working there full-time along with a passionate group of staffers – most of whom have never had a job before.
“These kids are so impressive who want to come work for us. We’re giving these community kids their first job,” enthuses Pennell. “To me that’s really special that we can be that first impression for someone in the workforce.”
The social aspect, getting kids to play video games outside the home, is also important. “Come see us. Be social,” said McDonald. “Kids can bring their parents, everyone can hang out and it’s not going to cost a fortune.”
It has been quite the journey for Pennell and McDonald, one fueled by passion to try something new for themselves and for the citizens of a small community. “I think the passion is there for people to see,” Pennell adds. “It took a lot of heart and courage for this to happen. This is our full-time job now. I think our level of commitment is going to show through.”