It’s a space that can appeal to the geek in everyone.
From the Stars Wars memorabilia scattered around the room to the multiple arcade game emulator (MAME) console in the corner, it’s the kind of place you can both gather in and escape to.
Spaces, where we can escape our daily lives, are important and surrounding ourselves with things that bring us joy is good for the soul. But how does such a place –in the basement of a home in Fairfax, Virginia – come into the world?
“Like all great stories, it starts with a girl,” Dave Sobel jokes.
He’s talking about the bar he built in his basement, though they aren’t the kind of words you typically hear when discussing a man cave.
Sobel is senior director of community and field marketing at SolarWinds MSP. But this particular blog is about what Sobel and his wife Sharon are up to when Dave isn’t navigating the managed services market.
In The Beginning, There Was A Keg
Happy hour, Sobel style.
After buying his first home in the summer of 2000 Sobel tells ChannelE2E, he decided to throw a housewarming party. He had been dating his girlfriend, Sharon, for eight months at the time. The house included an open basement with a second kitchen and a second fridge. That gave him an idea.
“At the time, Sharon was much more of a beer drinker than I was. I instantly decided that the second kitchen would become the bar for the house and that the second fridge would become a kegerator,” he says. He ordered the parts, did the construction and the party was on.
A MAME tucked in the corner. Nintendo cartridge pillows deliver extra comfort.
Since then, Sobel says he’s come around to the taste of beer. And as his palate has grown so has the bar. Frequent trips to the company’s Edinburgh, Scotland office meant returning with a bottle of whisky that necessitated a new top shelf. And so a fourth shelf was added.
That’s not the only ‘channel’ influence on the room, though. Last year Sobel says he noticed a Facebook post from Herman Pool of Vertical Axion, selling some classic bar-top arcade machines. “I’d always wanted an upright arcade machine, but space is limited, and could never quite pull the trigger,” says Sobel. “Herman’s offer was timely and I just had to do it.”
A round of upgrades later and the MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) now takes its rightful place in the corner of the room.
Taking It To the Max
There’s also a light-up MAX 2016 sign (designed for an industry conference) that Sobel’s team gave him. “I’d hosted them to the house after MAX 2015 was in DC, and they knew the sign would be perfect for the bar when we were done with it at the event. A really nice touch,” he says.
Not A “Man Cave”
As the bar grew so did Sobel and Sharon’s love for one another. Now the pair is married and the basement continues to play an important role in their lives. “Sharon, to this day, says ‘I knew I could marry a man who put a kegerator in for me,’” says Sobel.
They both enjoy hosting parties and over the years the place has evolved with personal touches and mementos. Their signature event is a pig roast every May, held every year since 2004. They also host Halloween parties, New Year’s parties, Eurovision viewing party, “and other silly themes too. Or just have a few friends over for a meal and some fine whisky,” says Sobel. The poster that hangs above the fireplace is from the event where they first met – a gift on their wedding day from old friends who had performed in the band.
Because of all this, Sobel is reluctant to call it a “man cave.” Sobel says house rules dictate that they both agree on any new additions since they both use the space. “She’s pretty open minded and supportive of my hobbies, but that’s a key,” he says.
Sobel’s big challenge: Video game inventory management…
There have been bumps along the way, though. Sobel says most of the mistakes were the result of not including Sharon in the decision making. “I didn’t quite work out well enough where the arcade machine would go,” he says. “Sharon and her trusty DIY skills helped create the build for it.”
Storage has also been a problem. “Holding all those old carts remains a challenge,” he says. “The new shelf along the ceiling made a big difference there.” And he’s developed an appreciation for proper cable management.
So What’s Next?
There are a few changes Sobel has his eye on. An updated kegerator and a functioning wet bar are at the top of the list. But whatever comes, Sobel knows one thing:
“The key to success for me is making sure the plan gets reviewed by Sharon.”
Dave & Sharon Sobel, somewhere outside the world’s most inclusive man cave…