Mac Owners Worship Computer Wizard In Downtown Tampa Repair Shop

Saunter into the brightly decorated, mostly orange, white and black Screwbox Solutions shop, and grab a cup of coffee or a soft drink. Charge your cell up. Chill out in the fashionably upholstered chairs. Let your children play in the orderly toy area.

Even though customers may be there because the device that almost directs their life -- their computer -- is not working, it's probably all right to relax, now. Shop owner Steve Bush is the man who can probably fix your Mac, and give you all your information back.

What's that? You thought you had to go to Apple to deal with your Macintosh computer problems? Not in the Tampa Bay region. Bush, 53, a lifetime technology professional and former Mac Genius, understands you, and your computer. If you are not interested in waiting for an appointment at the Apple store, or your Mac is seemingly beyond hope, you have a lot in common with his customer base.

Coffee-drenched laptops, cracked screens or seemingly wiped out hard drives do not frighten Bush. In fact, he rallies to bring them back to life. It's a large portion of his niche, which also includes upgrades. His ability to step up and take on these types of fixes is even welcomed by the local Apple store people.

"Their business is selling computers, my business is fixing computers," Bush says. He is not considered a threat to Apple, he says. In fact, they refer customers to him. "They have tens of thousands of customers, we don't," he says.

Perhaps not, but he does have a strong and devoted customer base that has steadily grown. Many customers come to the downtown Tampa shop because they fear their Macintosh computers have flatlined, and Screwbox Solutions is the last chance. If Apple is faced with repair of a machine damaged by a liquid spill, for example, it can cost more than $1,000—and is not covered by warranty. But those types of problems, in addition to cracked screens, ruined cases or dead keyboards, can usually be remedied at Screwbox for a fraction of the Apple-cited estimates.

Keeping Life Real

It makes sense that his customers express gratitude and loyalty. Dave Hyland of Winter Haven has no problem making the drive to Tampa to take his Macintosh computers to Screwbox Solutions. He has been a customer since the days when Bush worked out of Starbucks locations and his car.

But for the past few years, Bush has had his own established location. "I'm really glad to see him doing so well, with his own shop," Hyland said. He considers the connection with Bush a treasure, particularly in terms of savings and convenience. Repairs can be quite costly via Apple, he said.

"I first met Steve when I had something go wrong -- which it rarely does with a Mac -- and we met in Plant City at Starbucks," he said. Most often, Bush has been able to fix his problem, he said. One time he took a computer apart and found he was unable to save it, and he said there was no charge for his time.

Those who belong to the essentially fanatic Apple community understand the benefit of a good repair shop, Hyland said. Apple users are loyal to their product, and are pleased to find someone who can fix them and save them money -- because they certainly are not going to switch, he said. "Once you've been indoctrinated, you don't go back to the blue screen of death," he said.

Hyland has engaged Bush in Macintosh repair work several times. Once he took a laptop to him that belonged to his father-in-law. It had a cracked screen, and Apple would have charged him around $1,300 to fix it. Bush handled it for $700 or so, Hyland said.

The fixes are fulfilling for Bush, as well. Bringing information back to customers who faced the pending loss of sentimental photographs, invaluable business information or other data is a feel-good line of work.

Getting A Fix On Screwbox

As he tinkers with computers in his brightly lit, orange-and-black checkered shop, he explains the quirky name of his business with a wry smile. It's not about anything off-color. It's about the little plastic organizational boxes used to arrange the computer screws. Known as, well, a screwbox.

He is proud of his attractive shop, happy to be working with the computers he loves and delighted to be part of Tampa's trendy downtown area. "I love downtown, I am a downtown person," he says. "I glow every day when I drive in at all the wonderful things that are happening here. I love it, I love the vibe."

Bush confides that he has had the pleasure of saving the work of various celebrities.  That twist of fun clearly makes owning the shop even more of a kick for Bush. "We never know who is going to walk in here," he said.

Attentive and complete customer service, however, is extended to all Apple owners by Bush and his staff of one. "We try to treat everyone well. Computers have become as important as cars to people, with everything they do for us, and lives revolve around their computers." Keeping them up and running is vital, Bush knows it.

One of those brainiacs with both sides developed—left and right—Bush decorated his shop at 1209 N. Tampa Street himself. He and his wife, Kristen Dahlquist, are expecting a baby this summer. It is unlikely the Harbour Island residents will have to worry about losing the child's photographic history if a Macintosh computer crashes.

Mary Toothman, an independent journalist writing her way around the Tampa Bay region, lives in Tampa Palms with a boxer and two rescue Chihuahuas. She can often be found at a nearby Starbucks or Jazzercise, and goes nowhere without her iPhone. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

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Mary Toothman was a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.