If you look really hard enough, you can probably find Steve Ewers’ computer repair shop – a small room, actually – in a back corner of his True Value Hardware store in the La Tienda shopping complex in Eldorado.
The room is tucked behind rolls of pipe insulation and just around the corner from chain cutters, electrical boxes and switches. If you’re in trouble, store clerks can help, and the affable Ewers himself might pop up, waving you into the room, which is cluttered with computer parts and accessories.
Specifically, to say the room is a mess is an understatement of immense proportions. It’s the Grand Canyon of clutter. The Pacific Ocean of disarray.
Laptops, or their spare parts, are stacked among other piles of keyboards and video cards. Hard drives, floppy disks and motherboards spill out of the shelves, pushing them to the tipping point. Power cords and assorted extension cords threaten to trip anyone brave enough to enter Ewers’ little point-and-click shop of horrors.
“You’re looking at my office…it’s kind of what I think the inside of my mind looks like.” I’m half clumsy kid, half mad scientist,” joked Ewers, who along with his wife, Destiny Allison, are also managing partners at the mall. “My wife describes my method as creative chaos. … And yes, I also have batteries at home.
But there seems to be a method to his madness, something akin to the working philosophy that “chaos is just a very complicated form of organization.”
Ewers has run computer repair shops for decades, starting in the 1980s in Torrance, Calif., before moving to Santa Fe about 25 years ago. After several visits to small town shops, he built Santa Fe Computer Works on Camino Carlos Rey. After turning it over to a partner, Ewers moved to Eldorado and opened a 400 square foot computer store at the back of the La Tienda complex.
When he opened the hardware store about a year ago, he moved his computer repair business to the back room.
Ewers is a wizard for combining parts from different PCs – for example, taking the screen of a crippled laptop and using a separate monitor, reconfiguring it into a desktop PC – fine with a few loose wires, but certainly usable during several months to a year or two until the owner can scrape together the cash to buy a new one.
But Ewers also talks about customers whose computers he’s been humming for decades.
“I have a very loyal following of people who have used me for, in some cases, 30 years,” Ewers said. He cited the case of a lawyer friend who relied on Ewers to keep his DOS and Word Perfect-based computer system running longer than it should have. “He’s ending his legal career on the same computer that’s been running for 25 years,” Ewers said.
Ewers never had any formal training in computer operations outside of a few workshops here and there. He says he learned from his clients’ problems. “My stores were always very, very busy. When you’re in a busy shop, you see enough problems all the time to see the patterns and you build a portfolio of knowledge for each repair.
“I love doing this,” Ewers said. “I love the challenge of fixing things. I’ve always been intrigued by how things work and, more specifically, what keeps them from working.
He feels especially good when he gets a client out of a sticky situation, even if it takes him the hours of a Jimmy Fallon party to do so.
“Your computer is so intertwined with everything we do,” Ewers said. “And you know it’s not my fault, so when I fix it and charge you $90 or $100 or whatever, people are so grateful. It’s like I’m giving them their life back .
“I will do everything I can to keep my customers in business and appropriately satisfied,” Ewers said. “But if a guy comes in and says, ‘I’ve got this games tournament. Can you fix it by Monday? and that he arrives Saturday evening at 5:30 p.m., the answer is no.
Some of Ewers’ parts come from regular computer suppliers, but much of it comes from customers who bring him old equipment for recycling.
“I probably have about 100 laptops that I can salvage parts from,” Ewers said. It often involves repackaging things into salable products.
Regarding computer refurbishment, he said, “We’re not at the component level anymore…computers aren’t repaired that way. Computers are pretty much R and R – remove and replace. If your DVD burner fails, we could spend hundreds of dollars trying to fix it, or we could replace it for $19. We could spend thousands of dollars trying to find out why your video card failed – or a replacement costs $29. Computers are kept alive by replacing faulty components… Honestly, I haven’t touched a soldering iron in years.
What: Eldorado Computer Works, inside True Value Hardware
Or: 7 Caliente Ave in Eldorado
When: Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.