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Video-gaming seeks 'coffee-shop appeal' in Villa Park

Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 10:14 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:42 a.m. CDT

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VILLA PARK – Forget the constant beeping and bell-ringing of the casino and the loud music at the bar.

Video gaming is playing up a different image at two new Villa Park establishments.

"We take gambling and make it where it's very comfortable, different than a casino," Brian Wilson said. "We want it to have a coffee-shop appeal."

Wilson manages Stella's Place, which opened on Roosevelt Road last month, and Shelby's, which celebrated its grand opening last week a few miles north on St. Charles Road.

The same overall concept prevails at both video-gaming "sister" cafés.

Five free-standing gaming machines are stationed in a large open space in the back, obscured from the view of patrons drinking coffee or wine at a café-style table or on a living room-like couch up front. Bookcases extend out from either wall, creating a partition between rooms, and a long counter is positioned to readily serve customers in either space.

Decor and menus mark the distinguishing traits. Where Shelby's features tomato basil soup, fried chicken and a farmhouse kitchen atmosphere, Stella's Place offers flatbread pizzas, beef sliders and a feel of the 1960s.

About half-a-dozen wines and more than a dozen imported and domestic beers complement the Lavazza Italian coffee selection.

Wilson said members of a local book club use the front room to discuss their recent readings before slowly migrating, with a glass of wine, to the back to try their luck.

"It's kind of the bar alternative," Wilson said. "You don't have loud music or the college crowd taking shots. It's an environment that's social but not that kind of bar scene."

Each gaming machine features a dozen or more games, both slots and poker. The player sits in a comfy pilot-seat stool, while friends can gather around on rolling ottomans.

Des Plaines-based Laredo Hospitality Ventures, LLC has 14 Stella's or Shelby's in the Chicago area, and Wilson manages half of them. More are expected to pop up, including a Glen Ellyn location this summer, Wilson said.

The Villa Park locations, along with the Stella's in Oakbrook Terrace that Wilson also opened in March, are still in their infancy. He said it takes a month or so to build business.

People stop in for coffee before work or stay for breakfast and a few spins of Smash the Pigs on the "slots." Then there are usually lunchtime and evening crowds, Wilson said.

The business model caters to parents with high school kids or empty nesters, particularly women, according to Wilson, but he said young professionals also come for an evening alternative to the bar scene.

The big question is, how much does it cost to have fun at one of these video-gaming cafés?

"It's alway gambling," Wilson said. "You can walk in with $10 and walk out with $100, or you can walk in with a $100 and walk out with $10."

But he also noted that a beer and something from the menu costs less than $10, while five bucks could buy a customer an hour of gaming on the penny slots.

"It's a very reasonably priced environment," he said.

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Know more

Stella's Place – Villa Park

Location: 196 W. Roosevelt Road, Villa Park

Hours: 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday

More info: playstellas.com or 630-480-4283

Shelby's – Villa Park

Location: 321 E. St. Charles Road, Villa Park

Hours: 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday

More info: playshelbys.com or 630-480-4290

Stella's Place – Oakbrook Terrace

Location: 17W454 22nd St., Oakbrook Terrace

Hours: 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday

More info: playstellas.com or 630-359-5616

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