Nerds on the move

Monday, December 4, 2006

You've heard of them: They're nerds.

At least according to their radio commercials. But for the last two years or so Computer 21 has slipped a little below the radar. Two years ago, a fire severely damaged their office on Christine. A laptop battery exploded, of all things.

Owner Andrew Bard opted to move the business to Scott City. He also realized he needed a break.

The computer company had grown 960 percent in the years preceding the fire. It had gone from $43,000 in sales to $420,000 in four years. Real estate agent Cynthia Austin handled the deal for Computer 21.

"You just kind of get tired," Bard said last week. "We were working all the time, trying to keep it growing. I wanted to regroup. Figure out how we were going to grow again."

Now, on Wednesday, the "nerds" at Computer 21 are moving back to Cape Girardeau, opening at 1923 N. Kingshighway. A ribbon cutting will be held Wednesday afternoon in their new offices -- the former site of the Electrolux building.

The building was remodeled and a lease agreement was worked out, with the assistance of real estate agent Cynthia Austin. Part of Computer 21's celebration will be a barbecue.

"Everyone's invited," Bard said, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 4 through 9.

"It gives me an excuse to eat," Bard said.

But it's December. Won't that be a bit cold?

"Come on, we've had barbecues in the snow before," he said.

Computer 21 does computer repair; work on networks and servers, phone systems, and they're branching out into home automation. Home automation allows you to do things like lighting control, checking security cameras via the Internet and full house audio. Computer 21 will also be a Charter Communications payment center, Bard said.

So now the company is rested, ready and returning to Cape Girardeau.

"It allowed me to slow down enough to give me time to think and come up with a new plan," Bard said. "It was a blessing in disguise. But everything can be a blessing in disguise if you make it one."

I asked Bard if I should list him as the owner of the company or if he had some other title.

"I'd like to be called Supreme Overlord," he quipped. "But I'm having trouble getting my wife to accept that."

* Jackson Pizza Hut: The owners of the Pizza Hut in Jackson have reached a deal to move the business from its current location on Main Street to the former Marion Eye Center building on 2260 E. Jackson Blvd. Austin handled this deal, too.

Austin tells me the move is expected to take place next June and that about $300,000 in renovation work on the new Pizza Hut location should begin in January or February. The new Pizza Hut will take up 3,000 square feet in two of the spaces in the strip mall. The end cap will still be the Edward Jones office, Austin said.

In my blog last week, I wrote that this would not be a Wing Street, which was a part of Cape Girardeau's new Pizza Hut on North Sprigg Street. But over the weekend, I got an e-mail from Joe Ewers, the market supervisor for A&D Management, which owns the Cape Girardeau and Jackson Pizza Huts and he told me the Jackson project WILL be a Wing Street Pizza Hut.

"Our current plans are to start construction mid-February and be opened by early May," he wrote. "The dollar amount for this project has not been determined. Although if we can get it done for $300,000 we will be happy."

* Papa Murphy's: Speaking of pizza and Jackson, Papa Murphy's has decided to relocate its Jackson front out near Interstate 55. The deal was brokered by, who else?, Cynthia Austin. (Busy lady last week, huh?) I'm trying to reach the owner and will have more details for you next week.

n Other things I'm hearing: I've heard there's a new bistro lined up for the Marquette Towers. There's a new owner at Bloomin' Balloons and things are getting VERY close to the announcement stage with that closely-guarded secret company in Scott City. I hope there will be more to announce on those fronts in a week or so.

* Office shopping: Even as Web gifting becomes more popular, most workers won't shop online while at the office, according to a survey from Spherion Corp.

Fifty-four percent of employees said they wouldn't use their work time for Internet shopping this holiday season. Nearly half said it wasn't acceptable to do so in the office even though 70 percent of their employers don't block access to retail sites.

Of the quarter of employees who do shop online while at work, two-thirds spend 15 minutes or more each time they go online. Adults ages 30 to 39 are more likely to shop online than any other age group.

"Using computers at work to buy gifts during the holidays may be a symptom of employees' ongoing difficulty in balancing their professional and personal lives," said Nancy Halverson, vice president of talent development at Spherion. "With growing personal responsibilities and increasing hours on the job, the line between home and work continues to blur."

The recruiting and staffing company polled 1,233 employed adults in October.

n Shopper Safety: As the holiday shopping season gets into full swing, identity thieves have more opportunities to scam consumers.

"This time of year should be filled with festivity and celebration, but sadly, retailers aren't the only ones busy during the holidays," said Kirk Herath, chief privacy officer at Nationwide. "Identity thieves see prime opportunities for stealing and using financial information as consumers make more trips to the mall and spend more online."

Herath offers the following tips to foil their plans:

* Look over your shoulder: Thieves often grab credit card numbers or personal information while customers wait in long checkout lines. Shield your wallet from wandering eyes and watch for techie thieves using camera phones to snap pictures of your credit cards.

* Check out the checkout clerk: Thieves behind the register can run a card through an unauthorized, second machine to scan personal information, a practice called "skimming." Try to pay with cash whenever you can. If you're using a card, watch the clerk closely and double check your statements for counterfeit charges.

* Online vigilance: Don't give out your Social Security number to any Internet retailer. No legitimate business would ask for the information. Also, don't trust e-mails asking you to update billing information via a link.

Scott Moyers is the business editor of the Southeast Missourian. Send your comments, business news, information or questions to "Biz Buzz," 301 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702-0699, or e-mail them to smoyers@semissourian.com or call (573) 335-6611, extension 137.

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