Belen computer ‘doc’ will prescribe whatever ails your laptop, PC

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The doctor is in — at least the one for computers.

Housed in what once was a doctor’s office on Main Street, TNT Computer LLC co-owner Ernest Castellano fixes whatever ails his customers’ computers.

Janis Marston-News-Bulletin photo: COMPUTER DOCTOR Ernest Castellano checks outs a mended laptop at TNT Computer LLC on Belen’s Main Street.

Like in a clinic, the customers enter the store to find a waiting room greeting them. TNT’s has a warm, homey feeling with glass bowls of fruit, cookies and candy, bottles of water and a kids’ corner available to all who enter.

One computer is set up for walk-ins to use for accessing the Internet, making prints or sending faxes. He also has a few children’s movies available for little ones to watch while their parents consult with Castellano.

Customers fill out a form, describing what’s wrong with their laptops or computers. Castellano turns on the ailing machine and, like a doctor, tells them what the problem is and what it will cost to repair.

“I want to be upfront and honest with them,” Castellano said, noting he does not do extra repairs unless discussing it with the customer first.

“At first, I had one customer every two weeks,” Castellano said. “Now it’s one a day.

“The first three months were really scary,” he said. “But it looks like we’re going to make it.”

This is his second try in the computer business.

His first shop, called BENT, was open for four years before it closed at the end of 2010.

“The economy went way down and I didn’t want to go into debt, so I closed it,” Castellano said.

For the next three years, he was a freelance computer technician, taking whatever job might come his way. But he was determined to re-open his own shop.

When Travis Busch, who works for BNSF, offered to help, Castellano jumped at the chance and the two men came up with the name “TNT.”

It stands for Technology Networking Technicians. Asked about the blasting powder, Castellano responded, “We are dynamite, but the name has nothing to do with that.”

Busch is the company manager and business partner; Castellano is the technician. Since Busch’s railroad job keeps him out of town, Castellano was running TNT by himself. Recently he took on a sales and marketing person, Belen native Susan Heaney, to help expand the business.

She was hired the same day someone stole Castellano’s best marketing tool — a big tricycle in reverse, with two tires and a carriage in front and one wheel in back. Castellano hung a sign on it and parked it outside the business, hard to see because of a large tree out front.

“It was a great marketing tool,” he said, pointing out how it got the attention of motorists driving down Main Street from the north.

But someone cut the thick cable that kept it chained to the tree and took it, he said.

Pedals have a special place in the 52-year-old’s story.

He got his associate degree in computer science for computer programming from a Denver, Colo., vocational college in 2004. But there were no jobs available in the Denver market.

“Everything was outsourced,” he said.

To try to get traction — and media attention — to promote his cause of keeping jobs in this country, Castellano set off on a cross-country bicycle trip. The first leg, three weeks on his 10-speed, took him from Denver to Belen, where his parents live. When he didn’t attract any headlines, he ran out of steam and decided to stay.

Determined to continue a career in computers, he opened his first shop. With its failure under his belt, he said he works day and night to keep this one going and his customers happy.

“I’m proud of what I do,” Castellano said, adding he doesn’t go home until all the ailing computers are fixed.

TNT, at 113 S. Main St., is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The company’s website is www.tntcomputerllc.com; the phone number is 859-4223.