If you’re like most people, when your computer crashes, you want nothing more than a tech guy who can fix it — now. Or a couple of tech guys. Or a couple of tech guys who are identical twins and know that this isn’t just about hardware or software. It’s about you, and you need to know that the people who are taking your virtual life in their hands care — a lot.
This is the beauty of Tech Smiths, the computer and IT haven on the upper level of Water Street Market in New Paltz. This is such a dedicated group of techies, it hardly matters that they’re in a storefront just steps away from cool eats, boutiques, and galleries instead of in a grungy basement. And these guys pay almost as much attention to your relationship with your computer as they do to fixing it.
“Computers are an extension of people,” explained Brian Macaluso. “If a computer is broken, the person is broken; they’re upset and we need to try to understand what they’re really saying.”
“We use the things that people are interested in to help translate technical language,” continued Alan Macaluso. “It helps us to understand their situation and humanizes the whole experience.”
While Brian and Alan will soon celebrate Tech Smiths’ third anniversary and their 50th birthdays together, the business grew from the paths they took, separately and together, since graduating from Devry Technical Institute and working for a company that was among the first to computerize offset printing machines. Nearly 30 years later, they still talk about how difficult it was to teach skilled mechanics a technology they had no interest in learning.
“It was hard,” Brian explained. “We were these young, long-haired hippie musicians making these skilled blue collar workers learn something they didn’t want to know.”
From the time they first spun records as 10-year-old deejays at their older sister’s wedding, they’ve mixed music with their technology. A decade later, they built a recording studio in the basement of their parents’ Putnam Valley home and began to explore the eclectic tastes that define the various bands they’ve performed in since (Alan plays guitar, bass and pedal steel; Brian plays drums, bass and sings).
After moving to New York City in the early 1990s, Alan began repairing electronic equipment and started an IT consulting firm. He also volunteered at the first Apple-sponsored New York music festival, which swarmed with other musician-techies and helped him land a job at Reuters and then at HP, where he still works. Brian, who worked at recording studios and at audio rental equipment companies, eventually became the head engineer at the famed Electric Lady Studios. But as the audio business declined and the IT world expanded, he also turn to IT and learned how to provide small- and medium-sized businesses with the kind of back office support that Tech Smiths offers today — enterprise level strategies and solutions; business process streamlining; managed professional and IT services; and disaster preparedness.
“We have the technology to solve most issues remotely,” Brian explained, “the kind of services that were previously available only to large enterprises.”
Tech Smiths was born after Brian’s Apple laptop failed in 2008 and he realized there was no authorized repair shop in the mid-Hudson Valley. By then, the brothers had left New York — Alan lives in Gardiner with his wife, Kelly Macaluso, and Brian lives in Rosendale with his wife, Sari Botton — and Brian decided to go through the extensive training to become Apple certified, enabling Tech Smiths to become an authorized service provider. As soon as he did, the phone started ringing.
“Our direct relationship with Apple gives us the ability to fix Macs under warranty, access to all the back office documents, software, diagnostic tools and support structures,” Alan explained. “All of the training and parameters they provide roots us to the larger Apple community and makes us better able to serve our customers.”
Although the majority of their customers are Mac users, the business, which has expanded to include Luke Halley, Michael Wilcock and Brian Smith, also keeps those wedded to their PCs happy. And they expect soon to be able to offer iPhone screen and other smart phone repairs.
Despite the intentional focus on their customers, the twins occasionally hit a snag when someone doesn’t realize that she’s not talking to the same person who listened to her troubles just the other day. And all of the guys behind the counter wrestle with how to balance the compassion a frazzled customer needs with running an efficient business.
“It’s our challenge, a kind of Zen exercise, and we talk about it all the time in the shop,” said Brian. ++
Betty Marton runs In Your Own Words, telling the stories of personal and organizational journeys. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.