How does a computer store stay open in Ladysmith for 10 years?
Aaron Stone believes a genuine desire to serve people better, a strong sense of community and a bit of guidance are big pieces of the puzzle.
Stone and Jamie Kolk, with their families, own Uforik Computers on First Avenue, and the store is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
It all started in the fall of 2003 when Stone moved back to the Island to be close to family. He originally opened the store where Mr. Teriyaki and Miss Sushi is now.
“I opened a one-person computer shop and thought it would give me enough income to have a job, and I quickly realized I couldn’t keep up,” he said.
Jamie Kolk knew Stone’s cousin, and when he found out Stone might be looking for help, he came in about three and a half months after Stone opened, and Stone says they hit it off right away.
“The first five years were pretty tough and up and down, the highs and lows and not great at paying things on time, and my accounting systems were very poor,” recalled Stone with a bit of a laugh. “We grew the business during that time, but in a sort of sporadic way; as we got a little bit more, we did a little bit more and always sort of extended ourselves to the max.”
In 2009, Uforik moved to its present location at 410B First Ave. beside Coast Realty Group.
Stone says that by this time, he and Kolk had grown a lot and matured as they managed the business, and they received a lot of help and support from Kolk’s father, Luke, who encouraged them to keep going during the tough times.
“He could see the potential and realized with some guidance, we could probably do quite well,” explained Stone. “A big turning point was when he bought this building in the summer of 2009 and said ‘this is a great chance for you guys to move right into town.’ It changed our whole business. We had a great new space in this landmark building in town on a great corner with lots of traffic. Having Bouma Meats next door, having Island Homes here, just created a lot of extra traffic for us, and people became more aware of us.
“It’s really changed from we’d have three or four laptops and now we have 15 or 20, as many or more as big box stores.”
Uforik was incorporated in 2010, and Kolk became a full partner then, along with both their wives.
As Uforik has grown, it has built its business on service, support and knowledge and passion that Stone laughingly says they all have “from being sort of geeks at heart and being really into technology.”
““I think the biggest thing is it’s legitimate, it’s heartfelt and it’s real,” he said. “We really want people to leave here going ‘wow, that was great’ because that’s just as good a feeling as getting somebody’s money. The best feeling is when someone comes in and says ‘oh my friend told me this is the only place they would buy a computer.’”
Sean Sherstone began working at the store as well, and Stone says “he was just a good fit.” They’ve become like an extended family, and Stone believes this connection is what has helped them weather some of the tougher times over the past 10 years.
Looking ahead, Stone says Uforik would like to expand into more full-service electronics, such as televisions and gaming systems. Uforik is also going through a rebranding of its website, Facebook and Twitter.
Stone, who wants to thank everybody in Ladysmith, says celebrating the store’s 10th anniversary feels really good.
“It does feel like in a lot of ways that we’ve arrived, so to speak, but I think there’s still so much more that we can do, and that’s the exciting part,” he said. “I feel like with the backing of 10 years, we have more confidence to think we could make something more, still — just apply the same sort of genuine feelings we’ve had toward the business so far and expand what we offer to people. We’d like to get to the point where people think of anything to do with technology and think ‘I know the guys to go see.’”