December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Cashing in on Wi-Fi hot spots


Local businesses giving Web surfers the hook-up

Apart from the mad caffeine buzz that comes with slugging coffee after coffee in a four-hour block, Whitaker Davis pretty much has it made.

CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE
Miranda Corriveau, 20, surfs the Web using Wi-Fi on Friday at Jim’s Coffee House in Elyria.

Seven days a week for the past few weeks, Davis, 36, has been arriving at Arabica on North Abbe Road and shelling out about $4 for fancy coffee.

During his four-hour stay, Davis — a San Diego native visiting his folks in Lorain for a few weeks — has free, unlimited access to the coffee shop’s wireless Internet connection.

He’s something of a computer guy, and is taking online college courses to become a video-game designer. 

“I think the appropriate term is computer geek,” Davis said, chuckling. “This is as close to a classroom atmosphere as I’m going to get.”

A perfunctory glance around Arabica coffee shop reveals two things: One, people love coffee. Two, people love the Internet — and they love it even more when it’s free, whether for online college courses or e-mailing friends.

Arabica in Sheffield is one of dozens of coffee shops, restaurants, businesses and schools in Lorain County that have jumped on the Wi-Fi bandwagon over the years, offering wireless Internet connections to customers like Davis, who would likely tote their laptop into their coffin if the priest would allow it.

Some of the known Wi-fi connections in Lorain County.

Amherst
• Amherst Library
221 Spring St. (988-4230)
Toyota of Amherst
47190 Cooper Foster Park Road (1-888-572-9179)

Avon
Avon Public Library
37485 Harvest Ave. (934-4743)
Panera Bread
35860 Detroit Road (937-4646)

Elyria
Carlisle Cafe
1509 Grafton Road (458-6516)
*password required
Eat’n Park
1524 West River Road (324-3286)
*password/registration required
Elyria Library Central Branch
320 Washington Ave. (323-5747)
Elyria Library North Branch
1194 West River Road (324-2270)
Jim’s Coffee House
2 Lake Ave., (284-1444)
Lorain County Community College
1005 Abbe Road (800-995-5222)

Lorain
Lorain Library Main Branch
351 W. Sixth St. (244-1192)
Lorain Library South Branch
2121 Homewood Drive (277-5672)

North Ridgeville
North Ridgeville Library
35700 Bainbridge Road (327-8326)

Oberlin
The Feve Bar and Grill
20 S. Main St. (774-1978)
Java Zone
5 W. College Ave. (774-5282)
Oberlin Public Library
65 S. Main St. (775-4790)
Oberlin College Library
148 W. College St. (775-8285)
*password required

Sheffield Lake
Domonkas Library
4125 E. Lake Road (949-7410)
Subway
4246 E. Lake Road (949-6030)

Sheffield Village
Arabica Coffee House
5322 N. Abbe Road (934-0900)

Vermilion
Holiday Inn Express
2417 state Route 60 (967-8770)

Wellington
Bread and Brew
100 S. Main St. (647-0082)

Wi-Fi locations throughout Lorain County that require payment or are limited to guests: McDonald’s, Ohio Turnpike plazas (Amherst, Vermilion, etc.), Oberlin Inn, various hotels.

“I think I pay the rent here,” Davis said, pointing to a few cups of coffee scattered on his table. “I just like the coffee shop atmosphere — I get cabin fever at home and have to get out where there’s a little noise.”

It’d be near impossible to develop a comprehensive list of businesses that offer wireless Internet access, since new and existing businesses can drop or add the service at will.

Among the local businesses that have recently added free Internet access is Jim’s Coffee House, a cozy caffeine shop on Lake Avenue in downtown Elyria.

The store opened up this past February, but added free wireless Internet access to its services just a few months ago, said Erin McLaughlin, an employee at Jim’s Coffee House. 

“We get a lot of regular people who come in just because we have that,” McLaughlin said. “And we’ve had a lot of positive comments.”

To be sure, Jim’s Coffee House and Arabica are rare birds around town, in that they don’t require customers to have passwords to log on, and they don’t charge a cent for Internet access.

“A lot of people will come in, get a cup of coffee and then sit for hours at a time,” McLaughlin said. “It certainly doesn’t hurt business.”

Eat’n Park in Elyria offers free access, though customers are required to sign up for the service to log on — still not a bad deal.
McDonald’s stores throughout the county, however, advertise wireless access but charge a few bucks a month to use it. Lorain County Community College offers free wireless access, but the school blocks access to many Web sites.

“That’s why I come here,” said Donn Worthen, 39, an LCCC computer-networking student who was working on his laptop at Arabica. “There’s a lot of stuff the college is blocking now. You come in here, you don’t have to do anything — just turn on your laptop and go to it.”

A few tables away from Worthen was Lorain County Community College student Kandyce Davis, 17 — no relation to Whitaker.

“I come here every day,” said Kandyce, a Medina High School student taking college courses at LCCC. “I work at Ruby Tuesday’s next door, so I come in here between work and school and do my homework.”

The only other Internet access she would have is a dial-up connection at a nearby family member’s house or the semi-censored access at LCCC, where Web sites like MySpace.com and Facebook.com are off limits, Kandyce said.

Worthen said she has a method to finding hot spots, and he sounded almost like an old fisherman whispering about the location of his secret fishing hole.

“Some places have signs that have wireless access,” Worthen said. “I have a wireless detector that tells me which ones are free.”
McLaughlin, at Jim’s Coffee House, said the cost to maintain free wireless service for customers is marginal, at least compared to the benefit of having customers drop by the store and stay for hours or longer and buying coffee upon coffee.

Working on the computer in public also offers a certain attraction that just can’t be gained from working at home or in a cramped office, Worthen said.

“It’s about the ability to go wherever you want to go and sit and work — a park, a business, wherever,” he said. “It has a lot of appeal — especially the easy access."

Contact Shawn Foucher at 653-6255 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.