By Emily J. Weitz
If Sheryl Heller is your tech person, you’d never suspect she ever ventured to do anything else. She seems precisely attuned to the Mac language; she can navigate the Cyber world when most of us fall flat on our faces. And now that Heller and her Twin Peaks Geeks partner, Mike Avery, have set up Geekhampton, a sleek, bright store flaunting all the latest Apple gear, it seems even less likely that Twin Peaks started in an entirely different realm.
But it’s true: Heller and Avery began their business partnership nearly 20 years ago in San Francisco, first as Twin Peaks Trading Company and then as Twin Peaks Gourmet, an online gourmet food store.
“It all started because we couldn’t afford computer techs,” says Avery. “We did everything ourselves, from designing the web site to fulfilling orders.”
They realized that, with their growing skills in the sphere of technology, they had a business idea already hatched.
Avery and Heller moved to the East End and started helping other small businesses with their tech issues. They’re like super heroes, sweeping in to a bleak editorial newsroom at two in the morning before a deadline to fix a croaking modem. They’ve served both the North and South Forks for years, zipping around in their Smart Cars. Three years ago they set up shop in Hampton Bays so that people could actually come to them with their computer woes, or to purchase the newest gadgets. That’s when Amy O’Donnell Rajs joined the team as an admin.
“I took a temporary gig,” Rajs explains, “and three months later we got the place in Hampton Bays, and now here we are on Bay Street looking out at the yachts.”
“We needed to expand,” Avery chimes in. “We wanted to go to the next level with Apple and we needed a face lift that wasn’t going to happen where we were.”
Everybody knows what makes a Mac store. Can you jar it? Can you boil it down to a few words? Not necessarily. But one thing’s for sure: it’s not going to be found in a basement in Hampton Bays.
“Now this is a destination for people,” says Rajs. “Someone flew in on a helicopter and the first thing he did was come here to get his iPad.”
Geekhampton is an authorized Apple retailer, but not an Apple store. They buy all the inventory from Apple wholesalers so that they have everything you could want right there in the showroom.
“This is a place where everyone can come in and have their own experience,” says Heller. “We’ll have a full iPad demo station and iPods set up where people touch the machines. People can just come in and play.” Geekhampton has a conference room for tutorials and a Geek Bar where you can get assistance — think Genius Bar with a little less pretension.
The prices are the same as an Apple store, but there are little things about being a local, small business that separates Geekhampton from Apple.
“We offer personalized transfers,” says Heller. This is when you get a new device and need to switch all your data from your old one. “We make sure things are working that you need to be working because we ask questions and find out what you use your machine for.”
For $100, you get this personalized transfer service. For $150, you get Personalized Transfer Plus, which means in addition to that initial transfer, you get three one-on-one sessions at the Geek Bar (15 minutes each). These 15-minute sessions would otherwise cost $25, and they can be done in the store or on the phone, with one of the “Geeks” logging in to your computer remotely.
“If you come in with a question that takes two minutes to answer,” says Avery, “then fine. That’s free. Community service.”
Speaking of community service, starting in mid-July, Geekhampton will offer a weekly tutorial on a given topic. There will be a 15-minute lecture and then the floor will be open to questions. Possible topics include iPhoto, Mail, and Internet Security. This will be free and open to the public.
There was a mild stir in the Sag Harbor community when word got out that “an Apple store was opening up.” Was this corporate America creeping into our town? To this, Avery reminds that “We are local people who came from a basement in Hampton Bays. This is the culmination of many years dealing with clients out here, showing up and doing a good job.” Heller adds “This is not a start-up. We have a strong foundation of happy customers.”
And even though the bright, airy room and the stark white walls are stocked with the fastest techy toys available, Geekhampton is about the long-term relationship more than anything else.
“We want to provide the service after the sale,” Avery says. “Service is your long-term clientele.” To this, Rajs agrees. “It’s not the machine,” she says. “It’s the person who knows how to navigate the machine.”
The Geekhampton team has, overall, been made to feel at home in Sag Harbor, with people bringing welcoming presents and coming in to say how happy they are that they’re finally here.
“This was the right place to choose,” said Heller. “When we found this, it was sort of like it chose us.”
To celebrate their new digs, Geekhampton will be throwing an opening party on Saturday, June 25 from 3 to 7 p.m. WEHM will be broadcasting live, local wine will be poured, and there will even be a free iPad 2 up for grabs. Visit the store at 34 Bay Street, or check them out online at www.geekhampton.com.