Business

One-stop tech shop hits island

Keith Kirkwood shows off the competitively priced custom-built PCs offered at his new store in the Village. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
Keith Kirkwood shows off the competitively priced custom-built PCs offered at his new store in the Village.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

Keith Kirkwood is out to rebuild computer users’ experience from the ground wires up.

His new one-stop computing shop, Bainbridge Technology Solutions, sells components, builds its own PCs, and even makes house calls to help islanders faced with problems they cannot solve themselves.

Now open for business next to McBride’s Hallmark in the Village, BTS is an alternative for those who would visit a large retail outlet or a mail-order web site to purchase computer equipment.

But the store’s biggest asset is Kirkwood, who shares his passion for, and understanding of, often irritating and seemingly unpredictable machines.

“This is a marriage of my education, experience and hobbies, of everything I know and everything I’ve learned,” Kirkwood said. “I like technology products. I buy them and put them to use.”

Kirkwood, 43, grew up in Seattle and attended the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering.

He worked for Tektronix in Wilsonville, Ore., from 1983-95, then moved to Bainbridge Island, working for Stratos in downtown Seattle.

He went on to work for HP, Fluke and Intel, among others, designing products – including a combination GPS/cell phone battery marketed by Bainbridge-based Airbiquity that is now part of the BTS product line.

Kirkwood conceived the idea for the store nine months ago. “The need is obvious – people here don’t have access to sales, service and parts,” he said. “It takes three hours to go to Silverdale or Seattle; local service will make it a lot easier.”

Price parity

After determining the market was large enough to support the venture, Kirkwood built relationships with distributors, to offer products at the same prices as a box store or through mail order.

He reasoned that some islanders would be willing to spend $35 on a component that costs $30 in Silverdale if just to avoid the drive – but that wasn’t good enough.

“We are already able to match prices with the box stores with 90 percent of the products we sell,” Kirkwood said. “We can do this because our overhead is lower and we can be more efficient.”

A 1,475-square-foot store cannot possibly match the scope of a discount outlet, so Kirkwood is only offering components that have passed his personal seal of approval, to “narrow the field into a select group that passes our muster.”

The result: while it offers the latest technology, the atmosphere resembles a community store, one that only sells items that are personally recommended by the proprietor – who is also a neighbor.

“I wanted to work on the island, be part of the community rather than commute,” he said.

“Filling in all of the blanks” at the new business is Kirkwood’s wife Nancy, also a substitute teacher for the Bainbridge Island Shool District.

It was the district’s computing courses that gave the other member of Kirkwood’s team, islander Joel Burt, his start in the field. Burt brings the touch of the digital generation to the store’s operations.

“I’ve gone on house calls and had people open the door and say, ‘oh, good – if a kid’s doing the repairs, I know it’ll get done right,” the 21-year-old Burt said.

Black boxes

BTS has a relationship with Dell Computer, the mail-order market leader. While Dell provides the safe choice, the store offers a more intriguing product that may be a better investment: its own BTS brand computers.

Built to order, the systems have higher quality components than a comparably priced machine, and include software, monitor and keyboard at three levels – $1,200, $1,800 and $2,400.

Aside from the powerful innards, like a low-noise fan, the CTS machines boast a slick ergonomic look. The black, sculpted cases are matched with name-brand keyboards and monitors to result in a component that fits neatly into a stylish home.

Said Kirkwood, “I had to look a long time to find a box that I really liked, that met my standards.”

While BTS currently sells PCs and peripherals, it will also offer Macintosh support and service, Kirkwood said.

In addition to computers, the store is offering cell phones and service plans from Verizon and T-Mobile.

As with the store’s other products, Kirkwood worked to make sure these were the best products for the location.

“Bainbridge is a difficult place for cellular service because of the geography,” he said. “Whenever I saw someone making a phone call in a rough spot, I would ask them what service they were using.”

Kirkwood also thinks he found the right spot for his business – an easily accessible, friendly venue to make technology shopping as painless as possible.

“I love this space,” he said. “It’s a perfect location.”

* * * * *

Bainbridge Technology Solutions is located at 275 High School Road in the Village Shopping Center. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Information: 842-TECH or www.bainbridgetech.com.

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