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Ye Olde Local Computer Store

Last week I paid a visit to my old PC store, ICG Computers, in Brookline. I hadn’t been there in maybe 5 years because I switched to Macs and thus spend time at the Computer Loft in Brighton. Also, when I was a PC, I was building my own computers out of components, so lots more went wrong (= I did lots more wrong). And, yes, I wish I could compile my own hardware and install the Mac OS on it. (Hackintosh scares me. Someday.) But, my remaining Windows machine crapped out last week, so I carried it to ICG’s small storefront.

Ray greeted me by name. Because no one else was there, we took the opportunity to catch up.

Ray comes from China and runs a quintessential American small business. He’s honest as the day is long, and could teach any bigger company about customer service. But it’s been a lean few years for ICG. Ray says that the recession hurt his primary customer base, small businesses. There haven’t been a lot of new businesses formed, so they’re not coming in to equip their offices. And, of course, the PC business has gotten commoditized. So, ICG relies on repairs and aggressively trying to beat the Internet on prices.

The walls of the store are lined with components. Then there are a few tables of new and used machines. He prices his used machines against eBay, and his new machines against Net low-ballers. As a result, you can get a power-packed laptop for $250 or $300. And you can do so knowing that Ray knows the tech and stands behind what he sells.

ICG is a great place to buy a computer. It’s also a great place to hang out and talk about tech. Ray knows my own level of expertise and talks at that level. No condescension, no salesmanship, no BS. I always learn something talking with Ray. In this case it turns out that my PC needed a new power supply, and the one I’d put in was under-powered. So, yeah, Ray upsold me, but I have complete confidence that he also right-sold me, so to speak.

Bunches of small, locally-owned computer stores have gone out of business here over the past few years. So have most of the larger stores. Remember EggHead? CompUSA? Me neither. And much as I love the Internet, I hate what it’s doing to the Rays of our town, who epitomize the best of small business. ICG is surviving and will continue to serve our community. But I want Ray’s business to do more than that. It seems unfair that honesty, expertise, friendliness, and low, fair prices aren’t enough for a business to go gangbusters.

Am I plugging ICG? Damn straight.

2 Responses to “Ye Olde Local Computer Store”

  1. That is similar to what happened in my town in suburban New Jersey. We had a good computer maker and repair store run by Ray (hmm-is there something about that name? Ours was from Italy originally) and his wife. They fixed a lot of local machines and sold some, including one to me. Ray did a lot of network maintenance and set up locally and in NYC. They also had a better DVD rental collection than the Blockbuster next door for many years. Even when their collection was not as big, it was still much easier, and nicer, to rent from them, and they were cheaper.

    They moved a few miles away and I went there for repairs occasionally. Recently I saw their shop was closed and I emailed them from their website. They are now working out of their house. Too bad about these places.

  2. With grid, asynchronous, shards in the cloud and very affordable devices like

    anticipating the IPv6 Internet of everything that is just around the corner, think, wearable computing, think, ambient intelligence, Ray and his wife may want to re-focus their energies/expertise to build and sell kits, sell fully constructed kits at higher margins, host hobbyist hacker spaces and hopefully make a tidy profit.

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