Editor's note: This is the third in about downtown revitalization in Watsonville.
A year ago, Orlando Correa could not spot a single computer servicing center in downtown Watsonville.
That's not the case in other cities in the county. Head to downtown Santa Cruz, for example, and you will find a handful of computer repair shops in walking distance.
So 10 months ago, Correa decided to open Shortcut Computing, in a storefront at 25 E. Beach St.
Now the 34-year-old Santa Cruz resident spends his days examining computers alongside two other full-time employees. In addition to computer repair, they offer remote assistance, tutoring, Web design and installation of Open Source software.
Correa knows his stuff—he studied computer science in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and at UC Santa Cruz—and he knows Spanish. The language has turned out to be an essential part of doing business in Watsonville. Correa said 90 percent of his customers are most comfortable conversing in Spanish.
On any given weekday, a line forms around 6 p.m.
“This is our rush hour,” said Correa on a break from fixing a broken hard drive. “People get off work and bring their computers in."
Correa, who has previously worked as a technician at computer repair shops such as Surf Control in Scotts Valley, knew he wanted to open his own business for years. But it was not until he enrolled in a six-month free class offered at the El Pajaro Community Development Corporation, which offers support to low-income and minority entrepreneurs, that he felt equipped with the knowledge and resources to carry out his goal.
While the store has yet to make a profit, Correa has seen a steady growth. Most of their clients, he said, come from word of mouth.
“People will trust us, because someone they trust told them to,” said Correa. A recent radio ad, he said, failed to pull in customers.
“We noticed a lot of computers were being brought, and we hope that they can fix the laptop we have brought for them,” said Maria Hernandez who arrived at Shortcut Computing on a Friday evening with her husband, Raul.
Shortcut Computing charges $45 an hour for repair but also offers one-on-one tutoring services for $15 an hour.
“The tutoring is basically a community service,” said Correa. “Most people will buy the newest computer with the newest technology but not know how to use it properly.”
There are drawbacks to being right downtown, said Corea, such as the lack of parking spaces and one-hour-only parking that is heavily monitored.
“I’ve gotten five parking tickets since I’ve been here,” said Corea, who commutes to work every day from Santa Cruz.
Soon Shortcut Computing will be equipping the store with WI-FI, initially acting as a community center where anyone can use their laptops for free in the store.
“It’s good free advertising for us,” said Correa.
In conjunction with the El Pajaro CDC, which is next door at 23 E. Beach St., the store will soon also offer a course on computer literacy.
Alejandro Lopez de Haro contributed reporting to this article.