By John Eaton
It is a place where imaginations can run wild. Sometimes people work together toward a mutual goal. Often times, the competition is fierce as people work against one another in the hopes that they prevail over their opponents. Games have been connecting people for centuries and have the potential to shape human connections in the future. A local business man shares his ideas about how games can bring people together.
Dustin Jepperson is co-owner and chief operations officer at The District Company, a social gaming lounge in Eau Claire, Wis. Interviews with Jepperson and other members of The District Company explained how their business models focuses on connecting people and creating a community around games.
Jepperson was introduced by Tim Sexton, founder of The District Company. Jepperson said The District Company was founded by Sexton in August 2013 as a concept café. Sexton was looking for a place where people could come together with ideas. Initially, the concept café was for people who had ideas about businesses and products, musicians, and artists. Eventually, Sexton found a niche with the gaming community and along the way met Jepperson, a retired member of the US Air Force looking to get involved with a business aimed towards gaming, but more importantly, the people who play them.
Sexton said that The District Company changed locations in August 2014. Previously located on 224 Dewey Street, Eau Claire, Wis, The District Company changed in order to meet growing demand and customer volume. The current location of the District Company is 305 South Barstow St, Eau Claire, Wis. Sexton said that since the move, Jepperson has played a significant role in the daily operations of the business.
The walls of the District Company are covered with a brightly colored assortment of board games and card games available for people to play. There are a dozen desktop computers dedicated for internet access and PC gaming which people can rent. Two large projector style screens rest on the back walls where people can play console games. The District Company features a wide selection of bottled sodas and a limited food menu.
Jepperson said “Structuring communities around common interests is part of the business model of The District Company.” One of the most important elements to the success of that business model is interacting with customers. As chief operations officer, Jepperson plays a significant role interacting with customers in the store as well as using social media to advertise and create awareness of the events and meetings held at The District Company.
“He is very knowledgeable about games and fun to work with” said Tara Mae, an employee and co-worker of Jepperson. “He is a real people person and makes sure to interact with everyone.”
Justin Voman, an avid gamer and regular patron of The District Company said that the friendly environment The District Company offers is one of its strongest attributes. Voman said “There is no judgement when a person comes into The District. Dustin always greets people when they come in the door and is interested in what they have to say. It’s like a family”. Voman regularly visits the store on weekends, driving miles back and forth from Baron, Wis. where he lives.
Jepperson also commented on The District Company’s efforts to create a family friendly environment. “We get families and demographics that you wouldn’t typically see at other games stores like women, and even teenage women. He then talked about the teenage demographic. “We get a lot of high school kids who might not have another place to go.” Jepperson said “This is sort of the niche that finds some of them that freedom and flexibility to interact with others. So that’s sort of a really unique thing I think that it brings to the community.”