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."