CLINTON – For years, the buzz around town was there needed to be a place for kids to hang out.
Now, a former Clintonian is opening up a hang-out spot, Travinator’s Chill Zone.
The person behind the gaming lounge at 176 Church Street is Travis Flanders-Caraballo. While he now lives in Worcester, he lived in Clinton in the past and still has family in town.
Flanders-Caraballo first proposed a “chill zone” in 2014, on High Street. The plan fell through at the time, but the dream remained and he eventually brought the idea back
Personal struggles helped him focus on what he wanted to do as an adult.
“As a youth, I was removed from the care of my family and spent 10 years in the Commonwealth’s Department of Social Services. Due to the lack of parenting, I was forced to grow up at a young age,” he said. “From the ages of 7 to 17, I have bounced around from residential programs and foster homes. Because of my lived experience, I was able to take my childhood challenges and support those who are currently struggling.”
For the last 14 years, Flanders-Caraballo has worked in human services with a variety of populations. He has been a foster father and senior supervisor in an intensive community based acute treatment program, working with youth from ages 5 to 17 at risk.
He has been a program coordinator for a day treatment program for adults with developmental disabilities and a residential program director for a longer-term residential home for children ages 5-13. The list continues.
His resume includes places in Clinton.
“As a teen, I worked in Clinton doing furniture deliveries for WHEAT Community Services,” and he also worked at TC Landos.
The Chill Zone is his first effort as a business worker, but his youth work in the community has taught him how to run a structured program/activities.
“The purpose of opening this gaming lounge is to allow the youth to have a safe place to ‘chill.’ Clinton does not have many options for youth to get out of the house and build social connections,” Flanders-Caraballo said. “I chose the town of Clinton due to the history and love I have for the Clinton community.”
He hopes his gaming lounge becomes a place that the youth in town want to go, “a place for youth to be able to come in and build social connections. When it comes to gaming, a lot of youth are stuck inside and are not being given the opportunity to build in-person social connections. Travinator’s Chill Zone will allow this.”
The initial target audience will be ages 11 to 17.
“We are considering opening to other age groups, on separate days and times,” he said. “We do not feel that comingling age groups would be beneficial.”
The goal now is to have a few different functions in the business.
“The Chill Zone will have a video gaming room with six or seven TVs and video gaming systems,” he said. “Another room will be used as a lounge for movies and special events. Another room will be for gaming tables, such as pool, air hockey and foosball.”
Another space will be the office.
Not everything is finalized, but Flanders-Caraballo said they are looking at selling snacks, including pre-packaged chips, candy, soda, juices and water, as well as T-shirts and sweaters with the Travinator’s Chill Zone logo.
The space could be rented out for special events, such as birthday parties.
The only way the Chill Zone will succeed is if it makes enough of a profit to sustain itself.
Flanders-Caraballo said some of the details are still being worked out.
“Some of the options are to charge an affordable daily entrance fee, monthly membership fee, and possibly even a yearly membership fee,” he said. “The business will be sustained through this as well as merchandise sales.”
The business model will be unique in Clinton. But not only is the plan for it to be a fun space for youths, but a safe one.
“We are in the process of placing video cameras throughout the facility. With my extensive experience in behavior management, I can assure that the business will be a safe and structured environment,” he said.
“The lounge is not a large commercial space (about 1,000-square-feet) and will be limited to specific age groups. Currently, the space is for youth. Other considerations may be made, in the future,” he added.
The hope is to open in March or April.