Enterpriser bets on growth in downtown area

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Rich Guy, owner of Computer Systems Resources, took a risk two years ago that he believes will pay big dividends. It didn’t involve hot tips from Wall Street insiders – nor a crystal ball. His calculated entrepreneurial decision grew out of a long-term love affair with the Colorado Springs’ downtown – and out of enthusiasm for the redevelopment approved for Lowell and inside “SoDo.” He also expects the Sky Sox stadium will eventually move downtown — just blocks from his store. Now about that risk…would you believe that in 2000, Rich Guy purchased the 500 block of South Tejon?
While Gateway and CompUSA prefer high-traffic suburban retail centers, Computer Resources (an abbreviated version of the company’s name) is a full-service computer sales and repair center that serves the business community, as well as individual home computer users. Prior to it’s South Tejon location, the company was first headquartered at Boulder and Tejon, and later moved to what is now the First National Bank of Colorado at Boulder and Tejon. Guy believes that his sixteen-year track record as a downtown enterprise has paid excellent dividends.
“We have more than 1200 clients throughout the city – about fifty percent of whom are small to medium-size businesses,” he said. “We have worked with companies like Guide Travel for more than twelve years or the Christian Alliance for many years. Once a business owner or manager gets used to our ability to service computer or network problems locally, they seldom want to go back to waiting on the phone for a technical assistance troubleshooter,” Guy points out.
He refers to a recent survey in PC World Magazine that says that the bulk of computer sales are now generated by discounters (originally Packard-Bell but now Compaq and Dell) who use mass advertising to sell product. “Today’s biggest companies are so price-driven – but in exchange for saving one or two hundred dollars, the consumer forfeits any support after the sale,” said Guy.
He also notes that five or ten years ago, manufacturers began to see that consumers were price sensitive and began delivering “a Hyundai instead of a Cadillac.” Products made by Dell or Compaq also must be shipped back to the manufacturer for service which represents a major inconvenience to the typical user. “I remember when Packard-Bell first started selling cheaper equipment. You could save $100, but the machines were not well made, not supportable, and not upgradeable. Of course, they’ve gone out of business,” he said.
Today, Computer Resources operates the largest computer service and warranty station in southern Colorado. One look at the operations’ shelves filled with HP, Compaq, IBM and other national brand PCs hooked up to diagnostic equipment, and it’s easy to see that many local residents prefer working with a person rather than a long-distance voice over the phone.
The retailer still sells hardware, software and peripherals but primarily markets its service as an on-call maintenance and service provider. “We sell the very best equipment– the Cadillacs in desktops, laptops, and printers,” he said. “And we service the rest.” Guy also says that his 40 full and part time technicians and sales support staff are eager to respond to panicked callers whose systems crash and require non-stop monitoring until everything is running smoothly. “Of course we charge for that kind of emergency service,” he adds.
Guy had never planned to become a PC dealer and service provider. In fact, on the way back from Mexico in his RV in 1986, Guy and his wife were caught in a northern Arizona snowstorm. While laying-over at a campground, they met Computer Systems Resources’ founder, Mac Wing. He and Guy hit it off, and the two couples became friends. A few months later, when Wing needed a rep to man the Computer Systems Resources booth in Denver, Guy agreed to help out. “In the first four hours at the show, I sold 100 units,” said Guy. “People were swarming the booth, and the business immediately got my attention.” The young entrepreneur returned to Colorado Springs where he had been hired as a consultant to help open a new restaurant on 8th Street. “Instead I ended up leasing space to sell PCs and never opened the restaurant.”
Local organizations like the Christian Alliance, or companies like Guide Travel that depend heavily on telecommunications in order to do business, like having computer and network support just a phone call away.
But the story doesn’t end here. As mentioned earlier, Rich Guy sees new excitement on the horizon with the advent of a revitalized downtown. He is active as a member of the Business Improvement District, and is closely following the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal effort.
“A few years ago, I decided to buy real estate on South Tejon Street from Ed Rudolph and his partner – including the Winfield Scott Stratton Building. So far, things are going pretty much as I expected. Downtown can only grow to the south and east – and we are well-positioned for that next phase,” Guy notes. By June 1, Computer System Resources at 516 S. Tejon will be joined by tenant, Southside Johnnie’s (developed by Concept Restaurant’s David Lux in partnership with Luke Travins and John Nolan at the former Sound Shop site), a tavern with full menu and ample parking.
Guy’s 58,000 square-foot purchase includes Stratton’s original trolley office and operations center, featuring a number of high-ceilinged, exposed brick and duct-work spaces, ideal for retail, restaurant or professional offices. He also points out that historic buildings constructed in the 1880s once housed KRDO-TV and Radio stations.
“We’ve had serious inquiries from Smokebrush Theater and a coffee shop so far,” he said, “and once Southside Johnnie’s opens, I expect to see even greater interest.” Guy also stays in close contact with Urban Renew consultant, Chuck Miller, the Classic Companies, and Earl Robertson at Lowell Development. “We really can’t lose in our current location, between the city’s two main urban redevelopment projects. Someday the Sky Sox will be playing a couple of blocks away, and more people will be living downtown. And when all those people need restaurants and services, where do you think they’ll come?”
Guy also credits dedicated downtown commercial pioneers, Dave Lux and Richard Skorman, for helping put the central business district on the map. Of Lux he says, “Dave has incredible vision – and really has helped shape downtown as a destination. I hear that there are more than a thousand people on the streets at 1:00 am or 2:00 am now – that would have been unbelievable a few years ago.”
Whether Rich Guy is wearing his retailer or his downtown promoter hat, he stands ready for the next chapter in Colorado Springs’ development. “I like being a part of a vibrant, growing downtown,” he said, “and whether it’s working with computer sales and service clients, attending a Downtown Partnership meeting or developing lofts for future residents, I want to be a part of our community’s future.”