In the Game
District Co. has emerged as a gaming hub
Located at the corner of North Dewey and Wisconsin streets is The District Co., a relatively young business that’s had its fair share of identities (we’ve written about it as a start-up café and a venue). Most recently it was an all-ages alternative to the Water Street and bar scene which offered live music and comedy. But the most popular night was the video game night, during which console games were played on giant 12-foot projector screens. This is where owner Tim Sexton found his niche.
Sexton did his research and found that most Americans are gamers of some sort, playing console, computer, tabletop, trading card, or board games. He also determined there was a distinct lack of places for gamers of all kinds to come together and play. He reopened The District Co. as a gaming venue, complete with those huge projector screens for playing the latest video games, TVs for playing console games, table space for board and tabletop games, and The Network, a five-computer PC gaming center. Sexton said they’ve found business success in this new model, but anyone who talks with him, even for just a few minutes, will be able to tell he didn’t start this business just to make money. “What I thrive off of is providing an atmosphere where all ages can come and feel comfortable, feel part of a family, and interact with others,” Sexton said.
That push for inclusiveness is the driving force behind what The District is all about. From the very beginning, Sexton wanted to focus on building the gaming culture in Eau Claire, as well as providing a place where anyone can come to hang out. He considers The District to be a venue, as opposed to a typical local game store, because he sees people coming in to spend time and play games, as opposed to only coming for special events. “We try to promote it as a venue where it’s more like a lounge slash café slash club,” Sexton said. One step inside and you will understand what he means by all those slashes.
There isn’t even a cover charge at The District. “All I ask is that if a person comes in to play, they buy a soda or a snack, and that’s how we can keep this place running,” Sexton said. Using the consoles, table space and projector screens is completely free. (However, there is an hourly fee for using The Network.)
The District sells snacks and an ever-changing array of glass-bottle sodas. This is something Sexton prides himself on, as he generally has around 55 types and flavors in stock. He even offers a buy five, get one free deal, which runs all day, every day. Some of these sodas are found locally, but some are from places like Mexico, Maine, and Washington. Lastly, The Distroct offers a variety of gaming supplies including binders, dice, and of course, trading card booster packs.
As far as what goes on at The District – let’s just say you will never be bored. “Typically what we’re shooting for is three events every day,” Sexton said. Examples of events include a daily Happy Hour from 4-6pm for “buy one hour, get one free” on The Network, retro gaming nights on Tuesdays, as well as trading card game tournaments and free console gaming throughout the week. The District is constantly on the lookout for more weekly or one-off ideas as well, and Sexton is willing to work with anyone who needs the space for anything from birthday parties to corporate outings.