Not so long ago, nerd culture incubated in small, dimly lit shops featuring surly customers and even surlier help behind the counter. Many of these nerds grew up, found partners with similar interests, and started producing the next generation (or, perhaps, the Deep Space Nine) of geeks. Most parents want things to be better for their children, so finding a space for kids to grow up with a proper nerd education without the barriers is right up there with finding the proper age to show them Star Wars, and buying the newest Lego video game to “test it out.” Such a space recently opened in the heart of Menomonee Falls: UberDork Café.
UberDork is the brainchild of Natali Heuss, a graphic designer, mother of two, and creator of the Geeks Gone Mom podcast. She wanted a space where her girls could express their budding nerd desires that was family friendly, open, and inviting. She turned to Kickstarter for starting funds, but then ran into medical issues that delayed the opening for several months. The space is now open, but still coming together because of that setback. “We opened up in a small space next to a gallery and then this space opened up,” Heuss says.
One of the big focuses is family. Milwaukee has a few places around town for adults to let their dork flag fly, but kids don’t have much outside sanctuaries in their parents’ basement. “My girls are creative and geeky,” Heuss says, “but the classes they wanted to take were too expensive.” The cafe is also a place for non-nerd parents to take their kids and learn about the strange shows their tykes watch. Sometimes, being a geeky kid to geeky parents is harder because of the natural tendency to rebel against parents’ likes and culture.
The cafe reaches out across several categories of geek. There is a gaming space with consoles ranging from the Atari 2600 to the Playstation 4. There is a pending book club, craft movie nights, D&D for beginners, games, and other activities. The cafe also features several local vendors that make things like Doctor Who-themed soaps, as well as a variety of pieces usually only seen on websites like Think Geek. The cafe side of things offers plenty of coffee, energy drinks, and a variety of delicious creations using a waffle iron. “I recommend the fawaffle,” Heuss says, “because it’s a falafel wrapped in a waffle.”
Heuss has some ambitious plans for her space. Everything should be in place by the end of November, with the store’s grand opening coinciding with Small Business Saturday the weekend of Thanksgiving. A showing of Christmas Story on Christmas Eve will feature an authentic Chinese food dinner. There will be a dedicated Minecraft server on site so people can come together and create a blocky masterpiece. There will also be outreach to inner-city kids, which might be a bit of a long haul out to the Falls, but Heuss has revealed plans for a second location in Bay View alongside a partnership with Milwaukee Makerspace.
“I’m a nork,” Heuss says. “A nerd and a dork. I didn’t have a place where I felt like I completely fit in. So I made one.”