It has been enveloped in the mists of time for more than a dozen years, but to those who worked there, or bought there, or who just wandered in, it was a magic place, a Camelot of Computers. Camelot, to us, was the Computer Mart of New York, the first computer store in the East and only the second one in the whole world. It was a place people never forgot. Started in the back of a toy store on New York's Fifth Avenue, it grew so quickly that the customers and shoppers filled the entire floor and interfered with the sales of Barbie dolls and wind-up cars.
Kelvin Smith, store manager selling and answering phone at the same time.
This was in the Spring of 1976, when microcomputers were so new that people were first hearing about them, and so they came to Computer Mart to see something completely new and wonderful. Crowds of curious people flocked to the Computer Mart to see these new little computers, and enough of them bought computer kits so that the business could soon afford to move to less crowded quarters on Madison Avenue and 30th St. This is the place that people think of as Computer Camelot.
The new Computer Mart was a big store that had been a textile wholesale display room. It was really two stories high and one story deep. Overlooking the main floor was a balcony that became the working space for my wife Dede, who during the day was a teacher of emotionally handicapped children. After three o'clock, she was the real ruler of the store. Dede had the perfect training and experience for handling the computer nuts who worked in the store, or who just hung out there. Looking over the edge of her balcony, she missed nothing, but said little unless she was outraged by the goings-on below. Usually, she enforced her dictates through a word from her associate, the formidable but gentle Barbara Learnard, who was also a teacher.
The Computer Mart on 30th and Madison was a big and popular place
The computer showroom and the book department were on the main floor. Here, on raised platforms, were the various computers sold by the Computer Mart. In glass cases against the wall were displayed all kinds of circuit boards that plugged into computers to make them do wondrous things.
The Computer Mart sold IMSAI 8080s, South West Technical Products 6800 and Processor Technology, typewriter-sized SOL computers, and Apple Computers. The brand new Apple II computers were always a center of activity, as was the big Compucolor where games were always in progress. Each type of computer had its devoted adherents, who would defend with religious fervor its claim to be the "best."
At one end of the store was the book and magazine department, which was always filled with many browsers and a few customers. In those days, the newsstands were not packed with computer magazines. In all of New York City you only could buy Byte, or Creative Computing, or Dr. Dobbs in the Computer Mart, and there was no such thing as a "back issue." Once a magazine passed its cover date, it became much more valuable, and therefore we raised the price.
Collectors searched for a missing issue of their favorite magazine because they did not want to miss an issue. A complete collection of Byte magazine was worth its weight in dollars, but no one would think of selling it!
In addition to the magazines, the Computer Mart also carried one of the largest stocks of computer books in the city. These were not books about personal computers and software (there were almost none of those at the time.) The computer books in the shelves were serious and mostly very technical books. When someone came in and one of our clerks showed them how a microcomputer worked, the clerk would sell them a copy of Adam Osborne's Introduction To Microprocessors. The Computer Mart of New York was Adam's largest retail customer.
The income from the books and magazines was a very substantial part of the store's business and the key to its survival. There were not enough computer sales at first to pay expenses, even though the store could have sold more computers.
How It All Began
My office was behind the showcases, at the back of the sales floor. I am Stan Veit, Storekeeper, the person who ran the entire business (it was actually owned by Dede, my wife.) I had been a technical writer in the aircraft and computer industries, working for such companies as Republic Aviation and Bell Labs. In 1975, I worked for a large computer timesharing company, writing their user's manuals. In spite of the fact that I won awards for their manuals from the Society for Technical Communications, when I finished the manuals for all of their current systems, they laid me off. It was one week before Christmas in 1975, and I had never been fired from a job before. Both the loss of my job and the timing angered me, and I declared that I would never work for anyone again.
Dede had her school Christmas vacation, so we went to Florida with her parents. This gave me some time to think about what I would do next. One idea kept coming into my head; I had read about a couple in Southern California who had opened a store to sell computer books and Altair Computers. Actually, Dick Heiser ran the store while his wife, Lois, worked to keep them eating. The idea of a store front selling computers was completely new, and it got a lot of publicity as the "world's first computer store."
This all sounded good to me; I loved books and computers, and, of course, New York City also needed a computer store. Besides, my wife had a good job, and was willing to help in the store and, more importantly, was willing to support the both of us.
I made up my mind to investigate the computer store idea, but meanwhile we came back from Florida, and I started to look for a job. While job hunting, I looked for a location for a computer store, but I was not convinced that we could actually do it. I had time to look for either a store, or a job, because I had gotten a freelance assignment to write a manual for the Warner Timesharing System, and I knew that I would have some money coming in before I went broke.
One night, Dede and I were traveling out to Long Island to attend a meeting of the newly organized Long Island Computer Association. We were crawling on the Long Island Expressway when, suddenly, Dede said, "Stan, look over there!"
I looked. There was a store selling hang gliders, right in Queens, right off the Long Island Expressway!
"You should do it," Dede said.
"Open a computer store. If that guy can sell hang gliders alongside the Long Island Expressway, you can sell computers in New York City!"
I could never understand this kind of feminine logic, but I firmly believed that she was never wrong. I made up my mind to get serious about opening a computer store in New York City.
Remembering that someone had told me that these were three things that were important in the retail business, Location, Location, and Location, I decided to look for space right in the heart of midtown Manhattan. As a boy, I had been an avid model airplane hobbyist, so I went to see the Polk brothers, who owned Polk's Hobby Department Store on Fifth Avenue and 30th St. I ended up talking with Lewis Polk, the son of one of the brothers. He managed the retail end of the business, and it just so happened that there was a small space on the ground floor of the five-story hobby store. This space had been leased to a magician, who ran a magic store as a concession. The magician had recently died, and the space was vacant. I could rent the space for a reasonable rent. I think Lewis Polk gave me the chance because he himself was interested in computers. That is the way we got into business.
Trying to decide what computers we should sell was not too hard; there were only a few products to pick from. The MITS Altair was the most popular, but when I called Ed Roberts of MITS, he told me that he had just granted the exclusive Northeast territory to some people in Boston and that I would have to deal with them.
Meanwhile, I was attracted to a computer
called the Sphere that was made someplace called Bountiful, Utah. According to their ads,
the Sphere was the only desktop computer that came with a built-in keyboard and video
display. To my mind, it really looked like an office machine. All of the others looked
like lab instruments with lots of front panel lights and no video screen at all. The
Sphere Company was delighted to get a New York City dealer, and sent a representative to
speak with me. The upshot was that I ordered a factory-built machine for display and
several kits to sell.
The Sphere was a Motorola M6800-based computer, and someone told me that I should also have an Intel 8080-type computer in the store, so I contacted Dick Brown in Boston, who was the person that had obtained the Altair distributorship from Ed Roberts of MITS. I flew to Boston and met Dick and his partner. They picked me up at Logan Airport and took me to their lawyer's office in Boston. It was very impressive. They explained that they intended to open stores all over the east coast, either as franchises, or as partnerships with the store-operator.
"We understand you want to sell computers in New York City and are interested in us selling you a franchise," said Sid Harrigan, Brown's partner.
"Not exactly," I answered. "I am going to open a computer store in New York, and I am here to find out if I can do business with you and sell Altair computers. What are your terms for a franchise?"
"Well," Harrigan replied, "there is a $10,000 franchise fee, and you pay 5% of your gross to us."
"What do I get for all this money?"
Sid beamed. "You get the exclusive right to sell Altairs in New York City and the use of our Computer Store name plus our help, advertising, and accounting systems."
I barely had $10,000 left after ordering my Sphere computers. I had no intention of giving it to anyone. My idea was to buy Altairs from them for a small distributor's mark-up. I was not interested in paying to work for anyone else! I politely told them I was not interested in a franchise; I wanted to run my own business.
"We are going to open a big store in New York to sell Altairs. It will be tough competition for you."
"That's right," I said. "It sure will be, but New York is a big place, and I think there will be a little business left for me."
I left Boston and flew back to New York with some trepidation; I really didn't have as much confidence as I showed. I was a big bluff.
The next day, I found an ad in Byte for a new computer called the IMSAI, made by a company called IMS Associates in California. This was an 8080, and used exactly the same bus as the Altair; in fact it could use the same plug-in boards. It looked really professional, with a red, white, and blue lucite front panel, big bright lights and large bat-type switches instead of the little toggle switches and tiny lights on the Altair. IMS advertised that the IMSAI had a 20- ampere power supply and a heavy metal case. To me this machine looked as good as a DEC PDP-8! Little did I know that the machine in the ad was the only one that existed.
I rushed to the phone and called IMS Associates. "I am Stan Veit of Computer Mart of New York City. We are the biggest computer store in New York City (the only one!) and I may be interested in selling your machines if I can get a good deal."
I spoke with a man named Bill Lohse, who told me, "Mr. Veit, we have the best computers on the market and we will be glad to have your store as our dealer."
"What are your terms?" I answered.
"Well, we are not exactly set up to deal with stores right now. Our advertised prices are very low, and we can only give you 20% discount if you order COD. However, if you pay in advance, we'll give you an extra 5%."
" How about Net 30?" I asked.
"That's what we would like, too," the sales manager answered, "but we can't afford it now."
Well, at least they were frank about it.
"How do I know you will ship on time if I pay you in advance?"
"You don't, but frankly we want to have our computers on sale in New York City, because we are trying to raise money on Wall Street. You also have to agree to buy 50 computers during the year."
"Sure, I will sell a lot more than that," I boasted, knowing if I couldn't, I would be out of business anyway.
I took the chance and sent IMS a certified check for ten computer kits using almost half my available capital. That was one of the luckiest things I ever did. A week before I opened the store, my IMSAI computers were there. The Sphere almost never worked, and the kits they sent me were never complete. I only sold one Sphere in all the time I was in business and that was to Watson Labs of IBM. No wonder it took them almost five years to come out with their own personal computer.
Six months later, the Computer Mart of New York was a going institution. We had so many people crowding into the little space I rented that Lewis Polk could not sell his dolls and toy cars that occupied the rest of the floor. He wanted me to move my store into the basement of the building and gave me an ultimatum either to move down or get out. Since I needed more room anyway, I went out looking for a store and again luck was with me. We moved from 500 square feet in Polk's Hobby store to 8,000 square feet on Madison Avenue, and the store soon became packed with computer nuts and just curious people, almost every day.
The first ten IMSAI's sold so fast that I hardly had time to assemble a kit for a store sample. The IMSAI 8080 became our salvation and the best computer of its type ever built. In fact, we used my original Altair as a sample, and when a potential customer couldn't make up his mind between the Altair and the IMSAI, we put them side by side and let them compare. They always bought the IMSAI, which was much more impressive and also cost less.
Our marketing method was simple. The customer would put down one third of the price, plus shipping costs, and I would put their name on a list. When the computers came in, I would call them and they would come in and pay the balance, plus any other boards they bought. If the person was not able to come up with the money, I would either refund their money, or put their name down for the next batch and give their computer to someone else. Very few people ever asked for their money back. As soon as I had enough money for another batch of computers, I sent it to Imsai. Neither I or my wife drew any money from the store. We paid the rent, telephone, and we did pay our regular help in the store. We paid other expenses out of income; the rest we sent to California for more computers. We lived on my wife's salary as a teacher. My experience was only one example of the explosion in the microcomputer industry.
THE COMPUTER MART PEOPLE
The first week after the store opened, a strange young man came in. He had an unkempt beard and needed a hair cut. "I met you at the New York Computer Club. My name is Dave Levine."
I didn't remember him. I had met so many people at the first meeting of the club, and most of them were a little strange.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Trying to learn 6800 machine language to program the Sphere," I replied.
"Here, let me look at that," Dave said. "Do you know 6800 machine language?"
"No, but I have an Altair, and I learned that machine language."
I gave him the books, and the next day he came in with a program he had written to put messages on the screen.
We now had a working computer. Of course when you turned off the power, the program disappeared. It also disappeared when you hit the keys on my cash register, so we kept the drawers open and hid the money elsewhere. Dave started to come in every day, and automatically became my first employee and technical expert. David and I worked together for years until I joined the staff of Popular Electronics Magazine.
Dave's family was "carney." His dad, Milton, had been a talker in a sideshow and now owned a used furniture store, while his mother, Lorna, ran antique shop stocked with the more attractive merchandise that his father bought. Milton had a truck with an ad on the side that read "Milton's Store, -Milton Buys Used Furniture, Milton Sells Fine Antiques." David had a horror of ever working a "straight" job, and he would come in at 11:a.m., take a lunch hour, and leave by 4:p.m.. However, if he felt I really needed him, Dave would work around the clock. The decision had to be his. I put up with him because he was a genius with computers and could interface a computer to anything. Besides, I liked him!
The second person who worked in the Computer Mart was Bob Arning, exactly the opposite of Dave. A computer programmer, Bob had built an Altair and was completely involved with the idea of having his own computer. A quiet, well-mannered, reserved person, Bob was thought by some to be somewhat of an elitist. Perhaps he was, but he was exceptionally competent with computers. Bob came into the Computer Mart with a proposition. He wanted to work in the store for nothing to see if he liked it and if we got along. If it worked out, he would invest money and have an interest in the business. Bob was disappointed that we didn't sell the Altair but he could live with that. I liked Bob, and knew I could use his technical ability, so I agreed. I could certainly use more money. We had to either pay cash in advance or COD for everything, and it was a strain on our limited resources.
Bob was one of the first people to get a cassette interface working. The use of an audio cassette was a great improvement over punched paper tape for data storage, but it was very hard to get it working consistently. He was also one of the first to use his computer to make music. We got along very well until Bob went to the first MITS Altair World Meeting and met Dick Brown. When he returned, he told me that he was going to become Brown's New York franchiser and open a branch of the Computer Store. He really felt that the Altair was much better than any other computer, and that Computer Mart couldn't compete. There was no convincing him otherwise, so I said good-bye and wished him good luck. He opened a store on West 39th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, and we became friendly competitors.
When I visited Bob's store, I observed that it was completely unprotected, and urged him to do something about it. I had not only signed up with a security company and installed an alarm, but I had installed metal gates around our big windows. Bob never listened to my advice, and, one weekend, thieves broke into his store and took just about everything of value. I felt sorry for him because he simply didn't understand what it was like to be in business in New York City. Soon after, Bob left his store, and Dick Brown found someone else to take over.
The new Computer Store was really never much competition for us because MITS insisted that they only sell Altairs, and they could not supply enough of them to sustain a business. MITS had come out with the Altair Model B, which was an excellent computer, and would have been a real competitor to my IMSAIs if Bob could have kept them in stock. In fact, they helped my business because I sold expansion boards made by Processor Technology that were superior to those made by MITS. Most of the Altair owners came to us for memory and I/O boards, and I made more on the boards than I did on a complete computer.
Another employee was Kelvin Smith. My wife had previously run a "Stay In School" program at a Settlement House on the lower East Side, and one of her pupils was a young black man named Kelvin Smith. He kept in touch with her after the end of the program and became a close friend. When Kelvin heard that I was going to open the store, he brought me some money and told me he wanted to invest in the store. When we had to leave the store on a business day, Kelvin would come in and take charge for us. It turned out that he was an excellent salesman, and I talked him into coming into the business as my manager. He was impulsive and outspoken, but for our situation he made an excellent manager, and I could trust him with the money and the business. When he left to go back to college, I sorely missed him.
His replacement was Joesf Bernard. Most of our employees were hired in the same way; someone came into the store because they were curious about computers, liked what they saw, and started to hang around the place talking with other computer fans. Soon they were giving advice to others and selling my computers. This is the way I met Joe Bernard. He hung around the store and was very helpful. Finally he got up the courage to ask me for a job. Joe was different from most of the characters who hung out at Computer Mart. He was mature, business-like, and he spoke several languages. He was just what we needed so I hired him to replace Kelvin as manager. Years later, Joe, who was also a Ham, became a writer for Radio Electronics Magazine, and when I left Computers & Electronics Magazine to join Computer Shopper, he took my place as Technical Editor. Like all the Computer Mart people, we became fast friends for many years.
Ken Stamm, who became one of our most important employees, started when he was a student at a upper class prep school in New York City. Ken's main interest in life was computers, particularly South West M6800 ones.
He started hanging around the store after school, and soon was on the phone with South West ordering all kinds of things. "Don't worry, you'll sell this stuff. People can't get it anywhere else."
Before long, he was running the entire South West product line in my store. One day, a lady with a strong French accent came to see me. She was Ken's mother and wanted to know where he was going every afternoon and why he was neglecting his school work. We had a frank talk, and she told me that she wanted to take him back to France that summer, but he was in his senior year, and if he failed he would have to go to summer school. That would endanger the trip and his getting admitted to college next year. I told her I would help and I had a talk with Ken. It was simple, I told him_no pass school, no computers, no job, no Swits!
That did it. Ken still showed up every day, but now he brought his books. With the help of some of the other geniuses that hung out, he passed all his subjects and went to France that summer. I really missed him until he came back at the end of the vacation. Ken remained in the Computer Mart as long as we were in business. If you came into the store seeking to buy a computer, and Ken waited on you, the odds were that you would buy a SWTPC 6800 system.
Joe Sanger was a medical student at N.Y.U. Medical College, which was near our store. He had a degree in Electrical Engineering but had decided to become a doctor. He was completely absorbed in computers, and spent so much time in our store, the school warned him that unless he attended more classes he was danger of flunking out. However, he always passed his exams with marks at the top of the curve. He had recently been married, and his bride also objected to the time he spent "playing" with computers. Joe loved to build computer kits, and he could solder the mother-board of an Imsai, which had 22 connectors, each with 100 pins, while carrying on a conversation. His work was as precise as if it had been done by a wave-soldering machine, and he never caused a solder-bridge. Joe would have made a wonderful surgeon, but at one point he decided he did not like taking care of sick people and went into Radiology. When he graduated, we lost our best computer kit builder.
Jay Cotton was an instructor at the U.S. Coast Guard Electronics School on Governors Island in New York Harbor. He was also a intense computer hobbyist, and he used to spend much of his free time at the Computer Mart. One thing we lacked was a good service facility, and Jay provided that by taking the repair work back to the School with him. He and his fellow instructors repaired computers for me in their free time. This provided our store with the best equipped service lab in New York City. Jay also built "factory built" computers. At that time, all the computers we sold only came as kits. If a customer wanted a "factory built" computer, we built it for him. Many hobbyists financed their hobby by building computers for our store.
Mike Alpert was an accountant who had become bitten by the personal computer bug, and came into our store to see what was going on. He fell into the hands of Ken Stamm, and of course ended up buying a South West 6800 kit. Mike tried to build the kit, and made such a mess of it that it was impossible to fix without replacing many parts. In the course of his many visits to the store, we became friends. As Mike Alpert became more familiar with us, Mike realized that the Computer Mart needed two things, money and his services. He therefore became my partner and accountant. It was Mike who arranged for our finances and took all of those worries off my mind. I relied upon his business advice as long as we were in business, and I still do.
Michael Lewis was a young man who came to the store to buy an Alpha Micro Time Sharing computer, and became a friend. He was a brash young man who was determined to start a software company to develop Alpha Micro software. Eventually we leased a floor in a nearby building as Mike Alpert's office and as a show room for Alpha Micro systems. Michael and his crew moved in and started to develop software under the name Dravac. His database, ANDI, later became the standard one for Alpha Micro systems. Mike brought his own cast of characters with him, including his girl friend, Suzy, whom I hired as my Secretary. Suzy later became a part-time punk rock singer, and her purple hair and mini skirts greatly enhanced the crew of colorful people who inhabited the Computer Mart. Bob Williams was one of Michael's crew. He eventually became a Computer Mart Irregular.
The Computer Mart Irregulars were people who frequented the Computer Mart in those early days. They often worked part-time and filled many functions. Some did custom software programming, some sold machines, and others just answered questions and generally waited on customers. Many well-known people in the computer industry such as Nick Anis, computer book author, got their selling experience working part time in the Computer Mart of New York. I could thus use the services of people who also worked for some of the largest computer and programming companies in the world.
Selling computers in our store included educating the customer as well as selling him. After a while I developed a collection of materials and talks, and would speak before groups who were interested in learning about these new gadgets. I spoke to bankers, insurance agents, and accountants. Most of these speaking engagements occured after I was invited to speak on several radio and T.V. talk shows in New York. I also started to write for magazines and eventually wrote one of the first personal computer books, Getting Involved With Your Own Computer, with Les Solomon as co-author.
THE NIGHT WE STOPPED TRAFFIC ON 5TH AVENUE1
One day, Les Solomon, Technical Director of Popular Electronics Magazine, came into the store and showed me a new board that could produce color graphics on the Imsai computer. It was called the T.V. Dazzler, and when Les showed me what it could do, I just had to get one for my store. The board was made by a new company called Cromemco, organized by Roger Melen and Harry Garland from Stamford University. The Dazzler was actually two boards connected together that could produce vector- generated color graphics that were very far advanced for 1976. Storing any video image in a computer takes a lot of RAM memory, and storing color images takes even more memory. Personal computers of 1976, such as the Altair or IMSAI with 8K or 16K of RAM memory, were considered to have large memories.
Most of the computers in use at that time did not have video terminals, but were connected to Teletype machines which acted both as printers and memory input devices. To produce any kind of graphic image on a CRT took such large amounts of memory, all that could be managed was block-like figures. (Remember the early video game machines?)
The TV Dazzler produced graphics that were also very crude, but they were in color. One program for the TV Dazzler generated a sensational ever-changing color display. This was called Kaleidoscope, and the color video display was exactly like looking through a rotating color kaleidoscope, except it was shown on a large color TV and the patterns constantly changed, seemingly never repeating exactly the same design.
When I received my T.V. Dazzler kit, I had it assembled and installed into an Imsai 8080 Computer. In those days, color video display monitors were something that only existed in TV stations; they cost thousands of dollars and were far out of our range. We used a regular 19-inch color TV and connected it to the computer through a little board called a PixieVerter. This was a sub-miniature TV station which added RF to the video signal from the Dazzler. You connected the output of the PixieVerter to the TV set's antenna terminals, and the image appeared on your TV. Of course, the PixieVerter was illegal to sell for this purpose, so it was sold as a kit and was supposed to be used to generate signals for a TV repairman.
When we got the Dazzler hooked up and running, we loaded the program in from a paper tape run through the tape reader on my Teletyper. Then we accessed the memory address for the TV Dazzler. All at once the TV screen displayed the moving, vivid colors of the kaleidoscope. Nobody could take their eyes off the images on the screen; it was hypnotic.
Then I got a real bright idea. My computer store was still in Polk's Hobby Department Store at 5th Avenue and 32 St in New York City. This location, two blocks from the Empire State Building, on 5th Avenue, was a very busy thoroughfare both day and night. I thought of a great way to draw attention to my store! One evening we put the TV set in the window. It was connected by a long piece of coaxial cable to the IMSAI computer in the back of the store, which had Kaleidoscope loaded into the TV Dazzler. We left the computer running when the store closed, and went home.
Imagine that you are a motorist driving down 5th Avenue in New York City at night. All of the stores are closed. It's pitch black, except for the street lamps. As you approach 32nd St., you see dazzling kaleidoscope patterns in bright colors, playing across the face of a TV tube in a store window. Even a jaded New Yorker was sure to stop and see what was making this display. Naturally, when you stopped to see what was going on here, so did everyone else. It did not take long to attract a large crowd of rubberneckers, and this stopped traffic completely, creating a big traffic jam on one of New York's busiest avenues. Soon, the police came to unscramble the traffic jam and they quickly saw what was causing the problem. Thinking that the pictures had to be coming from a TV broadcast (there were no VCR's in those days,) they called up all the local TV stations to find out who was broadcasting the images. The TV stations knew nothing about it. The police soon realized that the display had to be generated by something inside the store.
First they called the owner, and then the manager, of the store. The manager had to come downtown all the way from the Bronx. He had to open the store, turn off the alarm, and then he disconnected the computer by pulling the power cord out of the wall. The next morning, when I came to work, he had a few choice words to say to me about the window display. If I ever pulled anything like that again, I was finished with Polk's store!
It was worth it. We got a lot of publicity, and people became curious about the little computers that could cause a big traffic jam. However, soon after that episode I moved into new quarters at 30th Street and Madison Avenue, enlarging the Computer Mart of New York from 500 square feet to 4,000 square feet.
The XYZ Computer Company
I had a steady flow of visitors who wanted to open computer stores, and came to see how it was done. Just by opening the Computer Mart, I became an instant expert. Of course, I realized that I was no expert, just lucky, but people came just the same. Hal and Harriet Sheer came from Westchester County to see me. Hal had gotten an idea to install computers in libraries for the public to use. His machines were to be coin operated and specially available to kids. Harriet was supportive of him but much more practical; she wanted to open a computer store, which they eventually did under the name Computer Corner.
Larry Stien came to see me about his idea to open a computer store in New Jersey. I suggested that he use the same name as my store. He first did business from his home, but later found a partner, Ari Golombo, who had money, and opened a store. The Computer Mart of New Jersey became a very successful store, and was both an associate and a competitor of ours.
The problem was that a lot of customers who came to our store ended up buying out of state from Larry to save the New York sales tax. We got some New Jersey customers, but there was not as much traffic in our direction.
I met Charles Dunning through Doug Hancey of Sphere, and it was just a coincidence that his store, which opened shortly after mine, was called Computer Mart of Boston. We became good friends, and other New England Computer Marts opened in Vermont and New Hampshire. We all became very loosely associated.
We had other out-of-state associates, mainly Larry and Betsy Chinnery of The Computer Workshop of Rockville, Maryland, and Bill and Angela Miller from Sunny Computers in Miami, and my close friend, John French of Computer Mart of Los Angeles.
At Larry Stien's suggestion, we formed the XYZ Corporation to enable us to buy together in order to meet competition from chains as they started to appear. We would also meet to discuss mutual business problems and find areas where we could cooperate.