Nov 08, 2012
Don’t be fooled by Grant Chappell’s mountain man look, his beard alone knows more about computers and technology than you and I ever will. Whether he is chopping down a tree or building a custom desktop, Grants knows what he is doing and he does it very well.
Like the rest of our writers, Grant is a PC guy. While his favorite PC brand is Asus, his personal computer is a custom built desktop. He has refrained from enlightening us with any more details on his PC because his mountain man club prefers their members not use technology. Grant has also asked I not write or publish this piece. However, I am confident his fellow club members will never see it.
If stranded on a deserted island, Chappell would need some type of Android smartphone and of course, his beard.
Nov 08, 2012
Chris Breshears has only two hairstyles, afro and cornrows. Likewise he has only two favorite PC brands, Asus and Lenovo. Chris is a manager at Ribbit’s west store and in every sense of the word is a techie. Whether he is hacking his Kindle Fire to install the latest version of Android or tinkering with a custom built gaming PC, Chris loves technology. One look at his home computer setup and it becomes clearer.
Chris’s laptop is a Lenovo Thinkpad with an i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and Ubuntu Studio operating system. He’s built himself a custom desktop with 8GB of RAM, an AMD Phenomx6 processor, Geeforce 7950 graphics card and dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu. Like I said, techie.
When asked what one piece of technology he would want if stranded on a deserted island, he said there was only one real option. The Nokia 3310 cell phone. This old school brick phone is indestructible and he can play snake all day with it.
Nov 08, 2012
Tyler Black may be young be certainly is not dumb. At the age of 19, Black is one of our youngest managers at Ribbit Computers. And it’s because this kid knows what he is talking about. He’s been with us for nearly two years and has been nothing short of exceptional. The only thing he might spend more time on that computers is his biceps. He spends hours doing “curls for the girls,” as he says.
Tyler is a PC guy. Always has been, always will be. His preferred hardware brands are Intel and nVidia. He’s all about power, whether it’s with a processor or a bench press at the gym.
His personal setup is a custom desktop that also doubles as a space shuttle. He has a cooler Master HAF gaming case with LED lighting. With an i5 processor, 60GB SSD, 500GB hard-drive and a MSI GTX560Ti graphics card, this machine is ready to power through our atmosphere.
If stranded on an island, Tyler would only need a Samsung Galaxy Note II, assuming he has internet access. It’s a phone, no a tablet, no a phablet!
Apr 08, 2011
Alex Harb came to the United States from Lebanon nearly 11 years ago hoping to get a college degree and eventually land a job.
Beyond that, however, Harb had more questions than answers about how he would accomplish those goals.
His situation was compounded by the fact that he knew little English. He was raised speaking French as a second language.
But Harb — as he often does — persevered.
He came to Wichita in August 2000 and enrolled at Wichita State University . He also considered schools in North Carolina, but chose Wichita because WSU accepted him first.
Harb paid his way through college by busing and waiting tables, and selling pocket knives on ebay, learning English along the way.
Overcoming obstacles, he says, was nothing new in his life because he grew up amid turmoil in his native Lebanon.
"It gives you the survivor mentality," says Harb, 30.
Four years after coming to Wichita, Harb had accomplished one of his goals and set out to accomplish the other.
With a computer science degree in hand, Harb started Ribbit Computers in December 2004, and the company has grown steadily since.
Ribbit now has 55 employees across five retail and computer repair stores in Wichita. The company also includes a business solutions division, which launched earlier this year.
Harb says he started his own company after first looking to buy a technology business in Wichita. That plan changed since nothing was for sale.
"The reward is I have something to do where every day is different," Harb says.
When he started Ribbit, Harb had a basic understanding of what it takes to make a business successful.
He started working at his dad's wholesale grocery business in Lebanon as a teenager.
There, Harb, who has five sisters and one brother, learned the value of hard work and how not to succumb to obstacles.
Keeping his goal in mind helps him get through difficult situations.
He says he honed his customer-service skills while working as a waiter at Red Rock Canyon Grill in Bradley Fair.
"The more you take care of the customer, the more reward you are going to get out of it," Harb says.
Transferring those lessons to the computer business has helped Harb be successful with Ribbit, say those who know him.
"He was really good at customer service and I think he took that with him to Ribbit Computers," says John Arnold, who owns Red Rock Canyon. "He's really passionate about that."
Arnold says Harb wasn't afraid to work hard to accomplish his goals, and he often came to work early and stayed late.
Keith Stevens, senior vice president of Southwest National Bank , who has served as a financial advisor to Harb, says he has a solid grasp of how to make a business successful.
Stevens says Harb understands how to strategically grow a business.
"I just admire his business acumen," Stevens says. "His expansion has been well thought out."
Harb started Ribbit Computers after working as an intern at LSI Corp. in Wichita.
When he's not working, Harb enjoys pheasant hunting and playing soccer.
"I enjoy what I'm doing," Harb says.
Feb 25, 2011
Fueled by the success of its retail stores, Ribbit ComputersbizWatch is launching a new division to serve the information technology needs of businesses.
Ribbit Business Solutions will operate out of the company's retail site at 438 S. Rock and will offer managed computer services, security camera installation and on-site computer repair.
Owner Alex Harb has hired 12 employees for the new division, including eight technicians, and will add two more.
Harb plans to have 20 technicians on staff by summer. Ribbit Computers has 72 employees.
Launching Ribbit Business Solutions is the next phase of Harb's strategic expansion plan that, until now, has centered on expanding the company's retail presence in Wichita. Ribbit opened its fifth retail site last year.
"We've got our system established in town," Harb says. "Being present all over town helps us get to the customer quicker."
He says, the company's focus in 2011 will be on growing its business solutions division.
"This is pretty much our project right now," Harb says. "We're trying to be businesses' IT department."
Harb remodeled 2,500 square feet at his South Rock store for the new division. Mitesh Construction, a Hays-based company with an office in Wichita, was the general contractor.
He also is planning to add 2,500 square feet in an adjacent suite that most recently housed a dentist office. Harb hopes to have that work finished in two or three months.
Harb plans to launch a similar retail and business solutions model later this year in Salina. The business solutions division, Harb says, mostly will operate out of Ribbit's Wichita office.
Harb also is considering opening stores in Garden City and Dodge City.
"The opportunity is there," Harb says. "We've established a lot of relationships through our retail stores."
Those relationships, Harb says, have helped Ribbit Business Solutions solidify a client base of 120 businesses in various industries including health care, legal, accounting, manufacturing and banking.
"Business is booming," Harb says.
He estimates that the business has spent $350,000 to launch its new division. Southwest National BankbizWatch is financing the project.
Ribbit launched its business solutions division in January, but waited to discuss it publicly to give the new employees a chance to get settled in.
Harb says the company has grown enough to focus on growing its business solutions client base.
He hired JoAnn Cooper, who most recently worked for Great Plains CommunicationsbizWatch , as his business development manager.
Cooper says the new division will help Ribbit expand its services.
"It is something that evolved because of the retail stores," Cooper says. "We want to develop this whole side of the business."
Harb says he formed the new division because many of his retail customers started asking for managed services.
Ribbit's new division adds another IT managed-services option to the Wichita market.
Those in the industry say offering managed services provides a business-solutions option for companies that don't have in-house IT departments.
"I think it provides small- and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to get some technical support that they wouldn't otherwise get," says Wayne Chambers, president and CEO of High Touch Inc., which also offers managed services. "I think in Wichita there is a need."
Chambers says Ribbit can benefit from a strong retail presence in the Wichita market that others don't have.
"Competition is good in a lot of ways," Chambers says. "It makes you pretty sharp."
Mar 25, 2010
Ribbit Computers owner Alex Harb in front of what wil be his newest story at 2616 Maize Rd. near 5 guys Burgers and fries.
Ribbit Computers is coming to north of 21st and Maize Road, as owner Alex Harb's plan to saturate Wichita with his computer sales and service stores nears completion.
But it's not the end of Ribbit's growth, Harb said, as he puts the finishing touches on a plan to bring his stores to smaller Kansas communities.
Ribbit will become the final piece in an 8,960-square-foot retail center at 26th North and Maize Road, home to Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Cinnamon's Deli and the first Long John Silver's on an end-cap of a retail center, developers said. Construction has not begun yet.
"I've been looking for a while around that area," Harb said. "I'd talked to several landlords and almost made a couple of deals, but I wasn't convinced 100 percent. I didn't have that 'feeling' about the locations I was looking at."
After a month's vacation, Harb spotted the Five Guys center.
"It just hit me right then," he said. "I choose my locations by following my feelings. If I have that 'feeling' then I know it will go well."
The 2,500-square-foot Ribbit will have nine employees -- 6 PC technicians and three Apple technicians, the latter a growing segment of Ribbit's business.
"Apple has been rapidly improving its product," Harb said. "Used to be the cheapest computer they made was $1,500 to $1,600, but today you can get an entry-level Apple laptop for $800."
Landlord Central Park Place was represented in the lease deal by Brad Saville, president of Landmark Commercial Real Estate, and Christian Ablah of Classic Real Estate.
Ribbit was represented by Bradley Tidemann of J.P. Weigand & Sons.
Saville said the strip mall, which opened on Feb. 15, has been a success thus far, with restaurants ahead of projections.
The new store leaves Harb one short of his goal to saturate Wichita.
"I'm thinking that we'll look at the 47th and Broadway area, but before there we're going to start our Hutchinson project," he said.
Harb has targeted several Kansas cities at or near 20,000 population, including Hutchinson, Salina, Garden City and Dodge City.
"We want to get in all of them because we'll be able to provide them something they're missing," he said. "None of the bigger stores want to go there, but we will. We don't want to be Super Walmart. We just want to have our stores."
Jun 12, 2009
Alex Harb is negotiating with two west Wichita leasing agents to open his fifth Ribbit Computer store.
"I prefer one site over the other," Harb says.
He has signed a letter of intent with The Shops at Chadsworth, 2556 N. Maize Road, to take possession of a 1,625-square-foot space, says leasing agent Curt Robertson of Insite Real Estate Group.
The Shops of Chadsworth feature a Baskin Robbins ice cream store and a Cox Communications retail store. Robertson confirmed Ribbit Computers is one of two companies that has a letter of intent for the space. And he says another company is interested in the same site.
Oct 19, 2008
Alex Harb grins and leans forward in his chair, buried in the back room of the Ribbit Computers headquarters at Douglas and Washington.
There's no economic hand-wringing allowed in Harb's four-store computer supply and repair chain in Wichita, just debate about what will drive the company's next two stores that are coming soon to 21st and Maize Road and 71st South and Rock Road in Derby.
Harb, who founded Ribbit in 2005, doesn't harbor any worry about expanding too fast in a slowing economy.
"We're always going after it," he said, chuckling. "My theory is that it doesn't matter what happens, because it could always be a lot worse.
"America is still the number one opportunity place in the world, and you're not scared to take risks here. Scared money doesn't make money."
Talk about the business model that's driving your expansion.
"Usually, a business owner has more knowledge about the business than anyone else. As a business owner, I can work like four employees. I can do several things in the business and still manage the business.
"The key is being present 24-7 and being able to save money and labor by doing stuff yourself.
"That way, you know that it's being done your way and efficiently because of your experience. You have the know-how about everything, so do things yourself and eliminate the margin of error, eliminate labor costs.
"I'm not one of those people who's going to become an absentee owner."
What is your niche in the Wichita computer market?
"What allows us to continue and grow in business in this market is our service in the local market.
"Local businesses save a lot of money dealing with us because we're a lot cheaper than the brand-name computer stores, plus we provide faster service.
"When the economy's not doing great, like now, local businesses save more money through us than through bigger companies or nationwide companies."
Is your business suffering as the economy slows?
"It's still doing well. We're still increasing our business every month because we're focused on what we need to do.
"We focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses and focus on the expenses that directly help our business.
"And customer service."
Talk about your philosophy of customer service.
"We're constantly talking to our staff to find out what the customer needs.
"If we find ourselves stuck with something our customers aren't interested in, we right away eliminate it.
"It comes down to this: If you have the product in and a customer ready to buy, you'll sell it. If you don't have the product they want, you've lost their business."
What's the fastest-growing segment of your business?
"We're constantly improving our business customer base. And this downtown location helps us quite a bit getting exposure to businesses.
"We're doing more of the business project, more camera systems, IT projects, point of sale software for restaurants, liquor stores and gas stations.
"It's grown into a pretty solid business customer base helping us continue to build our margins."
You've also diversified the product line, into Mac computers and now Alltel wireless equipment and services. Why?
"Our local market has its own special qualities with the customer base and products.
"With Alltel, we've had a bunch of customers request the air card to go with their laptops." (Air cards) are absolutely a serious competitor to Cox and AT&T. I'd estimate that 80 percent of customers within five years will be using air cards."
Why 21st and Maize, and Derby?
"When you have 50 or 60 different businesses going to the Derby Marketplace at 71st and Rock, you've got all those businesses needing IT services.
"And you've got business owners and employees needing help with computers and houses. Derby will do very well with that.
"At 21st, it's the same principle. There are lots of businesses and lots of homes going up.
"Plus, it's quite a bit of distance from our Maple and West store to 21st and Maize, so I'm confident we'll be able to serve more customers."
Any parting advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
"Watch your numbers."
Jul 24, 2008
Alex Harb, Owner, Ribbit Computers
"The best way of dealing with conflict is to try to relate everything you do and every policy you put together for the benefit of the business rather than the benefit of yourself or certain individuals, as well making it clear to everyone how it benefits the workplace and therefore benefits them. Don't want to waste time trying to change people's bad habits but rather convince people how important it is to leave personal problems outside the door and follow company policies and procedures, by providing examples and showing proven results.
Whenever a conflict arises between co-workers, you should solve that by relating to the company policies without making exceptions."
Apr 15, 2008
Alex Harb's 3-year-old computer company is growing again. Ribbit Computers is moving into business computing, opening a store in about three weeks at 921 E. Douglas to serve downtown businesses.
The downtown store, the company's fourth, will offer name-brand and custom-built computer systems, software and repair for consumers and small and medium business. Harb also has added Macintosh desktop and laptop sales and repair.
Much of that business work will be funneled through a year-old Ribbit division, the IT Group.
"We're downtown because we want to serve more businesses downtown," Harb said.
"Wichita is a great, great place to do business. People are very friendly and supportive to local businesses."
The 6,000-square-foot building will have about 2,000 square feet for sales and repair and about 4,000 square feet of warehouse space.
It will employ about 15 people, driving Ribbit's total payroll to about 55, and will house Harb's office.
Everything from point-of-sale management software such as Restaurant Manager to quick-repair turnarounds will be available, Harb said.
"Business people's time is valuable," he said. "They don't have time to wait, so we shoot for a day's turnaround on all repairs."
But custom-built systems –Ribbit's built about 250,000 computers since opening in 2005 -- and the latest in name-brand PC and Mac equipment will be for sale.
Richard Haddock, president of Wichita-based Haddock Corp., said the Mac market remains good.
"We've been here for 30 years, and any competition is good," he said.
Harb is undaunted by the recent national economic downturn, saying he's confident that Ribbit systems will save business clients money.
And a Wichita State marketing professor said his timing may be right.
"I'm not convinced Wichita's in an economic downturn," said WSU professor Cindy Claycomb.
"But, downturns can be a good time to jump ahead. If his strategy and planning are on target… downturns don't mean that people and companies aren't going to start buying. IT makes a business more efficient."
Harb, 27, founded Ribbit in 2004. Sales in 2007 were estimated at $7 million.
Other stores are located at K-96 and Rock Road, Maple and West Street and Lincoln and Woodlawn. Plans are in the works for a fifth store at 21st and Maize Road, Harb said.
The company also operates a build-to-suit computer warehouse at 810 N. Main.
Dec 17, 2007
Alex Harb thinks he could gain more business because of CompUSA's plans to sell or close all 103 of its retail stores in the U.S. Harb, owner of Ribbit Computers, said Monday he could gain more retail customers if the CompUSA store at 3665 N. Rock Road closes, especially since Ribbit's newest store is just a few hundred feet away.
"Our customer base is… businesses," Harb said. "With CompUSA closing down that could help us, increasing our home user customer base.
"It's a good thing for the Wichita market because it's going to help local businesses like ours grow more."
Late Friday, Dallas-based CompUSA said that it had been acquired by an affiliate of Gordon Bros. Group, a Boston-based restructuring and investment firm.
The Gordon unit plans to "initiate an orderly wind-down of CompUSA's retail store operations," the companies said in a news release.
Gordon plans to keep all of the CompUSA stores operating through the holidays, offering "attractive bargains" on the products it sells.
Some stores -- those in "key markets" -- could be sold, in addition to two other CompUSA operations: its technical service business called CompUSA TechPro and its Internet sales operation.
Stores that it can't sell will be closed.
The privately held companies did not say which stores would be sold or closed.
Earlier this year, CompUSA said it would close 126 stores, including one in Overland Park. That left the retailer's Wichita store as its sole Kansas location.
CompUSA was founded in 1984 as Soft Warehouse, a Dallas-based software retailer.
In 1999, it was purchased by Mexican financier Carlos Slim Helo's Grupo Carso SA. CompUSA has struggled financially in recent years and in February received a $440 million cash infusion and announced a new strategy to turn around its slumping computer and electronics sales.
The strategy was to focus largely on tech enthusiasts, educated professionals and small and medium-size businesses.
In Wichita, it's unclear what the full affect will be of Gordon Bros.' plans.
Mindscapes Academy, 10234 W. 13th St., said last month that it had reached agreement to display and sell CompUSA products, as well as offer training and support for CompUSA customers.
Messages left for Mindscapes officials on Monday were not returned.
Jun 13, 2007
Alex Harb wants to saturate Wichita with custom-built desktop computers sporting his trademark frog logo. Harb's Ribbit Computers has leased space downtown for a computer assembly line and an IT team, six weeks after announcing plans for a third Wichita store.
Ribbit's warehouse at 810 N. Main in the 1-Main Street office complex will be up and running "as soon as possible," he said, with seven technicians custom-building computers for individuals and business clients.
It's part of a business model tweak, Harb said, that will centralize the company's parts inventory downtown and downsize its three retail locations, which will still offer new and reconditioned computers.
Harb also plans to launch an IT team in August — with 40 technicians in the next three years — to provide a wide array of business services, from computers to point-of-sale systems.
The build-to-suit program will utilize kiosks in the company's three stores — 843 S. Woodlawn, 240 S. West St. and 3433 N. Rock Road — where customers, with Ribbit employees' help, can build a custom computer instead of buying a pre-configured unit.
"Some processors, for example, have a three-year warranty. Others five. This way, we don't sell extended warranties," Harb said. "You just buy the parts and warranties you want."
The custom solutions market is rapidly growing and evolving, said Shadi Marcos, account manager at Cybertron, a 10-year-old national build-to-suit company in Wichita.
So much so, he said, that in Wichita, some computer builders have become "nichey," succeeding as specialists for doctors and restaurants.
"I can't think of a sector who can't use this service, from individuals to businesses," he said.
The expansion is part of Harb's basic philosophy: Eliminate the lag time for custom computers and service.
"We've had a lot of customers at Cessna and Boeing that need specialized computers to run the programs they need for airplane building," he said. "Hard to buy a brand-name computer for that because of the graphics needed for high performance use."
Centralizing the company's parts inventory is the foundation of Harb's plan to blanket Wichita with more stores. Derby and 21st and Maize Road are other future targets.
"We're supplying three stores right now and eventually we want to be all over town," he said.
"That gives us the chance to downsize our stores to about 2,000 or 2,500 square feet, but we won't have the backstock. This way, we can distribute inventory as needed to the stores on a daily basis."
Bradley Tidemann and Pat Ritchie of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the 810 N. Main lease.
Jun 08, 2007
One Wichita computer company is expanding while a piece of note paper taped to a door of an empty building, its message washed away by the rain, marks the demise of another. Ribbit Computers LLC will open its third retail location at 3433 N. Rock Road in July, and recently opened a warehouse at 810 N. Main. The warehouse will supply Ribbit's three stores and serve as an assembly center for custom-built computers sold to the company's business customers.
Meanwhile the owners of the building at 818 E. Orme are looking for a new tenant to replace Powergistic Systems Inc., which recently closed its doors. Powergistic moved into the 28,000-square-foot building in 2004 with 21 employees to custom build its line of laptops, personal computers and servers.
Ribbit's new 2,500-square-foot store on North Rock Road will feature a kiosk allowing retail and business customers to customize specifications for a computer that Ribbit will build. The specifications for the computers, known as "white boxes," are transmitted to the assembly operation at the company's warehouse.
Alex Harb, Ribbit's owner, expects the new location plus the assembly business will push Ribbit to more than $6 million in annual sales for 2007. The company has 33 employees and is hiring at least six more for the new store.
Alex Harb, owner of Ribbit Computers, is preparing to open the company's third retail location in July. He's projecting the new store will push total 2007 sales to $6 million.
He plans to spend $85,000 remodeling the space. Vance Construction Inc. is doing the remodeling. Bradley Tidemann of J.P. Weigand & Sons Inc. helped find the space and handled the lease.
The goal is to setup and deliver a computer within 24 hours, says Alex Harb, Ribbit's owner, especially for business customers that make up 40 percent of the company's sales.
"When they need it, they need it right now. This is not something they are shopping around for," Harb says.
Ribbit's effort to grow its custom-built business comes at a time when Powergistic Systems closed its operations.
Powergistic was created by a 2004 merger of National Computer Resource Inc. and Atronex Technologies Inc., both founded and owned by David Williamson. Those companies had combined to win a total of seven Metro Awards as two of the fastest-growing privately owned companies in the Wichita area. Williamson declined to comment on the issues that prompted him to close the business.
Another Wichita white-box PC builder recorded 35 percent sales growth in 2006 after an initial period where sales grew at 50 percent a year, says Ahmed Aziz, CEO of Cybertron International Inc. Aziz founded Cybertron with Emad Mekhail and Shadi Marcos. The company builds Cybertron-branded PCs and focuses on retail, business and school customers.
"Over the past 10 years in business, we have learned that rapid growth must be dealt with very delicately," Aziz says. "It's a lot easier to grow in the short term than to maintain a solid and profitable position at each growth level."
Harb says he's controlling his growth to avoid problems that led to the demise of local computer companies such as Powergistic and Christian Dimension, a Metro Award winner that closed its doors in 2006.
"My team is what's going to keep me going," he says. "I can want to do a lot of things, but if I don't have the right team to do it, I will fail. ... I believe in what I'm doing."
Cybertron's founders admire Harb's drive.
"Alex is a young and aggressive entrepreneur," says Marcos, Cybertron's president. "He sees an opportunity for growth and he is willing to take big risks. We wish him the best."
Apr 25, 2007
People need their computers repaired the same way they need their cars fixed: in a hurry. It's an idea that's been a master stroke for Alex Harb, who is opening Ribbit Computers' third Wichita store later this spring at 3433 N. Rock Road. Harb, who graduated from Wichita State University with a computer science degree in 2004, has a simple business model — eliminate the lag time for made-to-order computers and computer repair by blanketing Wichita with his express service, much like an auto repair shop.
Simple, but effective. Ribbit did $70,000 in sales in the first six months after its December 2004 opening. It has done $1.7 million in the first four months of 2007.
"I thought this town needed a store that could repair a computer and get it back that day," Harb said.
Today, he sells new and used desktops and laptops and has a staff of 27 technicians to turn around repairs and special builds. Ribbit stocks more than a half-million dollars in computer parts.
Express service is where the industry has been headed for years, said Matt Whitfield, owner of Nexus Digital Solutions in Wichita, another computer repair-and-build service.
"Occasionally, you can run into a customer who can wait a week or so, but most of our clients need their computers back (the) same day," he said.
"We've been moving this way for years, but I'd say the customer demand for quick turnaround has increased tenfold over the last five years."
Harb's new east store will employ between six and eight people, offering the same express repair and sales services.
And there are more stores in the works in Derby and at 21st and Maize Road, he said, if the financials work.
Harb, a native of Lebanon, didn't take business classes at Wichita State. He didn't have to, since he grew up around his father's wholesale grocery business in Beirut.
"My mother's goal was for me to have weekends off, to have a regular life, but I'm more like my father," he said. "24/7. You find your passion and work at it."
That's a quality that entrepreneurship instructors try to teach at WSU, said Tim Pett, director of the college's Center for Entrepreneurship.
"We do a feasibility class that's exactly that," he said. "Match what you love to do with what the market demands."
And then never be satisfied, Harb said.
"I never thought this would happen," he said. "I can sit back and be proud. But you can't be satisfied because this business is a day-to-day thing."
Oct 27, 2006
Shayne Yonce guided the growth of his business dream from a mall kiosk to a stand-alone store. Now he's shutting it down.
Financial problems and claims of employee fraud led to his decision to close Christian Dimension Computer Solutions Inc. and its associated companies, Yonce says. The business was located at 942 S. West St. He's helping the building's owner find a new tenant.
Yonce closed two Computer Depot Inc. stores in the Kansas City area four months ago. Christian Dimension acquired Computer Depot in September 2005.
There also is pending legal action. Emprise Bank filed a lawsuit in July seeking $151,421 plus interest and late charges claiming Yonce and the companies defaulted on a loan.
"Certainly, it's very disappointing to see this have to happen, but we made some choices in some staffing and some things came up that ended up being a problem," Yonce said in a voice-mail response to an interview request. "There are things that we're working on to deal with the employee."
Wichita police are investigating an embezzlement complaint that was filed by Christian Dimension in September, says Lt. Hassan Ramzah, who heads up the financial crimes section. He declined to provide details of the complaint.
Yonce and his wife, Amy, took out a $162,000 loan from Emprise in November 2005. According to court documents, Christian Dimension did not make loan payments in May and June 2006, triggering the lawsuit.
The case is set for a civil pre-trial conference in February 2007.
Officials at Emprise were not available to comment on the litigation.
About the time the lawsuit was filed, Yonce closed the Computer Depot stores in Overland Park and Lees Summit, Mo. Helen Griffin and her husband Dale, who sold the Computer Depot stores to Yonce, opened a new computer company, Direct PC Sales Corp., in the Overland Park location two weeks later.
Dale Griffin, Direct PC Sales' vice president, says he was told that Yonce ran out of resources. Griffin is not planning to file any legal action against Yonce.
The lease on Christian Dimension's Wichita store continues until April. Yonce is working with Paul Moore, the building's owner, to find a new tenant. Moore says he's trying to help a friend.
"It's not a bad company," Moore says. "They have a lot of potential if they can just arrange to get things put together."
Yonce founded Christian Dimension with family seed money in 1999. The first location was a kiosk in Towne West Square during the winter holidays. It transformed from a company that only sold Christian software to one that provided service on all major personal computer brands and sold and manufactured its own brand of PCs.
He also branched out into digital home entertainment systems, acquired Computer Depot for its Kansas City locations, sold used computers and most recently opened a coffee shop catering to computer users.
Christian Dimension was the overall winner in the 2004 Metro Awards based on 2003 sales of $1.5 million and three-year growth of 290 percent. It was also a 2005 Metro Award winner.
Christian Dimension's closing could boost the sales of Ribbit Computers LLC, says Ribbit owner Alex Harb. The two companies targeted similar customers in west Wichita after Ribbit opened a store seven blocks away at 240 S. West St. last June.
"He's a nice guy and doesn't deserve this," Harb says. "I wish him good luck."
Jul 14, 2006
Alex Harb says he's happy to be able to live his dream. He's adding a second location to Ribbit Computers LLC, 15 months after creating his custom-built computer company. The new location fills 5,500 square feet that was vacated by Cinnamon's Deli in the strip center on the northeast corner of Maple and West Street. Ribbit's east location, at 843 S. Woodlawn, opened last fall.
"We had a lot of westside clientele that said that a westside store would be a lot more convenient for them," Harb says.
Harb expects the new store will add $2 million to Ribbit's $1.7 million annual sales.
New wholesale operation
The former Engenio test engineer created Ribbit because he enjoyed working with customers and to offer custom-built home and business computer systems.
Harb financed the $275,000 in expansion costs through a loan from Southwest National Bank. He used credit cards when starting the company that was incorporated in November 2004.
"Summertime is pretty much the worst time for the computer business, but we've been doing very well," he says. "I know for sure this place will do very well."
He's counting on back-to-school sales to help establish the new store.
In addition to the second retail location, Harb created a wholesale operation with a goal of expanding his list of business clients that includes Scholfield Automobile Dealerships, Mike Steven Auto Group and Cessna Aircraft Co.
"Both of their locations are really convenient to where we do business at," says Steve Brown, senior systems administrator for Schofield. "Furthermore, we're a retail operation and their hours closely match ours. If I have a piece of equipment go down at 7 p.m., I can run in there a lot later than anybody else."
David Williamson, owner of Powergistic Systems Inc., says he doesn't think Ribbit's new location will have much of an impact on his business. He sees Ribbit as a retail operation, while Powergistic concentrates on wholesale clients.
"It's business," Williamson says. "Everybody has an opportunity to be in business and I wish him well."
Harb will hire 15 new employees to fill staffing needs for both stores by the end of the year. His long-term plans include at least two more retail locations. He's targeting one location near 21st Street North and Maize Road, the other somewhere along the north Rock Road corridor.