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.