PLEASANTVILLE - David Broomell was fixing computers long before Bill Gates became a household name.
Broomell, of Egg Harbor Township, owns Mainland Office Supplies, a full-service computer and office-supply company in Pleasantville.
The business on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard sells 28,000 office products to a range of businesses, both big and small. The store also gets walk-in traffic from residents who need printer ink or other home-office supplies or want to ship packages by Federal Express.
Broomell had a computer-repair company in 1986 when he bought the former stationery store. He decided to merge the concepts, offering both technical help with computers and office supplies for South Jersey's small businesses.
"Our average customer has 10 work stations and one or two dedicated servers," he said.
The recession cut deeply into the office-products business, Broomell said. As companies contracted, fewer employees needed less paper and fewer office supplies. But sales of office products are increasing again, suggesting more economic growth in South Jersey's white-collar jobs, he said.
"We only really had one down year, in 2010. On the computer side, it's getting busier and busier all the time," he said.
Mainland Office Supplies relies on one main supplier, S.P. Richards Co., based in Atlanta. Its competitors include big-box stores such as Staples and Office Depot. But Broomell said he offers pricing that's competitive with large chains.
"Everyone needs to make a margin, but we can compete because we don't have the overhead (costs) that larger companies have," he said.
The company is in Pleasantville's Urban Enterprise Zone, which offers customers a reduced sales tax on purchases. This 3.5 percent savings can add up quickly, he said.
Usually, new customers are seeking a single product such as toner ink. Broomell said by offering good prices on these products, he usually can win over a client's entire office supply business - from furniture to paperclips.
Office supplies are a $20 billion industry in the United States, according to the trade analyst Hoovers. About 50 companies nationally control 80 percent of the market.
Computer equipment makes up 27 percent of sales followed by paper at 14 percent, stationery at 12 percent and furniture at 8 percent.
Broomell said computer operating systems are becoming more reliable and less glitchy with each new version. But many of his clients need help with software that is becoming increasingly complicated.
"We find that they're using more advanced technology with biometrics and fingerprint scanners," he said.
His business installs and services computer networks, which are susceptible to computer viruses and spyware, he said.
"We recommend people maintain their current anti-virus software and don't open attachments from people they don't know," he said.
When all else fails, his company can debug systems and try to restore lost files. Mainland Office Supply provides data backup for doctors, lawyers, insurance adjusters and many other businesses.
"You can never have too many backups," he said.
Contact Michael Miller:
Mainland Office Supplies
Location: 13 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Pleasantville
Owners: David and Kathy Broomell, of Egg Harbor Township
Revenues: Not disclosed