Oak Park store takes byte out of computer problems
Adrianne Roach and her brother, Jon Lacey, opened Every Last Byte, a computer repair shop, in October. | Kevin Tanaka~ for Sun -Times Media.
Updated: January 28, 2013 2:49PM
OAK PARK — A customer walks up to the counter at Every Last Byte with a 17-inch black Dell laptop and explains that Microsoft Explorer has stopped working. Though it sounds as if it should be a simple fix, Adrianne Roach, co-owner of the repair shop, prepares an ID tag and tells the owner it may be a few days before he gets it back.
“How will I live that long without my computer?” the customer laments as he reluctantly hands Roach his laptop.
“Often when Microsoft Explorer is broken, it’s a symptom of an underlying infection, and that will take a little longer to fix,” she explains.
It’s the sort of conversation Roach, 45, has had many times over the past seven years since she started operating the repair business out of her Oak Park home. But rapid expansion led her to team up with her brother, Jon Lacey, 31, earlier this year to open a storefront where Bleeding Heart Bakery once made its home at 1010 North Boulevard.
Trained as a network engineer, Roach worked with a small company where she did not only her own job but also was responsible of maintaining the hardware.
“I had several computers plopped in front of me, and they said, ‘Fix it,’” she said.
A 24/7 job for which she was called into the office at any time of day or night, she eventually felt stretched thin between work and caring for her young children. Roach decided to become a full-time mom.
“It was my dream job, but I left it,” she said. “It lasted about 2 weeks before I was climbing the walls.”
Roach went back to work -- this time, from home. Starting with neighbors and friends, her customer base grew to 300 in five years and doubled in the two years following that.
“I started small, and my name grew exponentially by word of mouth,” she said. Managing the growth became difficult for Roach, who typically went to customers to pick up computers, taking them back to her home to get them running properly.
“I couldn’t figure out a way to be more efficient without being in a shop,” she said.
Earlier this year, Roach batted around the idea of opening a shop with Lacey. He had tinkered with computers since high school, sometimes taking apart and rebuilding systems for hardcore gamers. Having worked at Jewel and a comic store, he knew what it would take to run a small business.
“Going into business with Jon was a natural progression. He knows computers and he knows retail, which I know nothing about,” she said. The closing of the bakery propelled Roach’s fantasies about opening a store into reality.
“It was this space coming available,” she said. “I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted something micro-small, and this place was perfect.”
Roach and Lacey set about transforming the space with its cupcake pink walls into a modern space that echoes its current use while making responsible use of the existing materials.
“In addition to computers being intimidating, some stores can be, too,” Lacey said. “We wanted to go the opposite direction from that.”
Roach and Lacey said they hope to set themselves apart through their pricing structure. While other computer repair shops start work at $80, they hope the average job will top out at that.
“I don’t know whether this pricing model in computer repair will work,” Roach admitted, “but I’ve been doing repairs in this price range for a long time and made money.”