Jade Burke spends the day with Tahir Muhammad, owner of Stamford Hill Computers, to discuss his business...
Walking into Stamford Hill Computers off of the hectic High Street, I am greeted by a young boy playing a PC game behind the front desk. “You’re not going to serve any customers looking at a computer screen,” chuckles Tahir Muhammad, the owner. Since it’s the school holidays, Tahir’s son has joined him today.
As Tahir guides me through the store I notice the collection of cables scattered across the back wall, while shelves in front of the desk hold host to a range of laptop chargers. We settle down in Tahir’s office, where a variety of gadgets and hardware take center stage.
The store first opened its doors in 1996, however, after buying it in 2006, Tahir explains the state of the store was in a bad shape: “When I bought it, we didn’t have any equipment and we didn’t have any workshop tools. I started working here for up to 18 hours a day, slowly building it up. From 2006 to 2008, we have been doing quite well, but after 2010 it has slowly started going down. But it’s picking up again now.”
Tahir adds: “The big giants are now falling because there isn’t enough juice left in the computer industry. We are independent, we have less overheads so we can survive. The bigger businesses can’t survive because of the recession, so as they go out of business there’s more left for us to swallow.”
Following the economic downturn, repairs became commonplace, as more customers couldn’t afford to constantly replenish their old technology with newer models. This, Tahir says, gave him an advantage over other stores and big chains.
Tahir would clearly move mountains for his customers, as I witness him getting up to serve customers and answer the phone, never neglecting them during their time in his store. He believes that offering this personal experience is crucial to his business.
“We have quite a good personal relationship with our customers, and it’s the major customers, the patrons who keep the business going. Even if it’s 10p or 50p we don’t mind, it’s still a customer we’re serving, that’s the spirit we have,” Tahir explains.
He gets a chance to reminisce about funny anecdotes he has experienced during his time: “There’s so many, but some of them are really shameful. Somebody called me and I asked them to ‘Go ahead and press any key,’ to which their reply was, ‘Well which one is any key’? Well, any key is any key.”
Glancing around the room, I notice a presentation board has been littered with certificates of achievement and thank you cards. Tahir tells me: “Students come from all over Europe for a work placement here, so we have these thank you cards.”
He adds: “If they are skilled or old enough, I will let them go into the workshop. But otherwise we just keep them on the shop floor, showing them how to serve a customer, make a photocopy or use the internet.”
Looking across I can see the entrance of the workshop, where a desktop has been stripped open which Tahir uses to test motherboards and RAM. With an open front, his workshop resembles a bar where customers can come up freely to speak with him.
The next customer comes in and he cannot help but praise Tahir, telling me: “Don’t tell anyone about him, he’s my secret. Without Tahir we wouldn’t be here.”
Although independent stores can face a huge amount of competition from larger chains, Tahir says: “There is still room for us in the computer industry, especially as it becomes more interactive and user friendly.
“I am not working because I get paid, I’m working because computers are my passion,” he adds.
Undoubtedly, the computer industry is always expanding, and with the need for repairs still evident, it seems Stamford Hill Computers will continue to reap the rewards due to its varied and personalised offering.
Year established: 1996
Number of staff: 1
Contact: 020 8806 0034
Email: tahir@ stamfordhillcomputers.com
Website: www. stamfordhillcomputers.com
Address: 80 Stamford Hill, London, N16 6XS