The Computer Lab to close after nearly 40 years

New London — The Computer Lab is closing this month after nearly 40 years in business, leaving many longtime loyal customers saddened and wondering where they can take their Apple products instead.

Since The Computer Lab long predated the first Apple Store — which opened in 2001 in Virginia — it is authorized to do work on products covered under warranty or AppleCare.

Repair places no longer can get authorized to do work under warranty, meaning local customers seeking these services will now have to go to an Apple Store. The closest locations are in Providence Place Mall and in Farmington.

Victoria Greco, manager at The Computer Lab, said the 345 Broad St. store has been in business since 1979 and is closing because owner Ronald Gibson wants to retire. She said the estimated closing date is Aug. 22 but stressed that it's still open for business.

Some of the work the shop does includes hardware repairs, software updates, data backups and recovery, and replacements of broken screens and batteries. And sometimes, Greco said, there isn't anything wrong at all.

Having worked at The Computer Lab since 1995, Bill Wescott has seen a lot.

"We've had people bring computers in after fires, and the computer actually worked," he recalled with a laugh. "It was all melted and we had to take it apart to get their data out of it, so we've seen that a few times."

He's had people bring in their technology after a house flood. He's had people get mad at a computer and punch it, or throw it at a wall. He's had people leave computers atop their cars and drive off.

Wescott sees some of the same issues now that he saw in 1995, like people deleting things they shouldn't. The biggest change has been the internet, leading the shop to deal with issues of malware and spyware.

"It really hasn't changed much from yesterday 'til today as far as issues with computers," he said, referring to hardware and software problems. "There's still issues with computers. It's amazing how that aspect really hasn't changed over the years."

The Computer Lab used to offer classes but realized it made more sense to do one-on-one sessions.

Along with fixing computers, The Computer Lab carries MacBooks and iPads for sale, and employees order Windows computers based on customer needs. Other accessories for sale include adapters, keyboards, cables, phone cases and laptop bags.

With the closing of The Computer Lab, Greco suggests that customers needing to go to an Apple Store call first, so they don't risk driving an hour for nothing. She also would refer people to Lou's Computers in Mystic for repairs, or to Jan's Electronics in New London for parts.

Lou's offers just about everything that The Computer Lab does, aside from warranty work, manager Dan O'Connor said. It offers hardware repair, software setup and backups, and it offers PC and Mac retail sales.

"We're here to take on anybody who wants to come over," O'Connor said.

On The Computer Lab's Facebook page over the past several days, customers lamented its planned closing. They questioned where they would go instead, and said they counted on the business for its reliable service.

e.moser@theday.com

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