It is one of my chief joys as the publisher of Athens Now to both be and have raving fan customers, and Mays Computer Company,a family owned and operated computer sales and service store is a place to which I love to send people for all their computer needs. The Mays family had their entire store wiped out by the March 2012 tornado, and even our Athens Now news rack got crushed!! They had loved their former location, (at the corner of East Limestone and Nick Davis Road,) they loved their landlord, and had no desire to move. The storm, however, had other plans, and as is often the case, the storm truly had a silver lining.

Just “down the road a piece,” at the corner of East Limestone and Capshaw Road, a Chevron had been rebuilt with larger shop space on the north side of the station, and it turned out to be a perfect place for the Mays’ new digs. During the time that they were closed and all the insurance claims were being processed, they were able to get great new stock, including gaming systems, Macs of all types, tablets, G Books, Mac Book Pros, I Macs, and every imaginable Microsoft product.

Another blessing from the tornado was the opportunity for continuing education. All the adult children of the Mays family now work at
the store, and everyone is constantly in some kind of continuing computer education training program, including Microsoft, Intuit, and others. Steve Mays said, “We wanted to get back in business to help our customers,” and they have gotten their wish. The new store is beautiful, spacious, has much more display space, and it certainly helps that it is adjacent to a Chevron store that often gets 500 customers a day.

What put Mays Computer Company on the map for me, and what is still their “bread and butter” is fixing computers. I have found myself in a true computer crisis on more than one occasion, (something that can be a nightmare in the newspaper business)
and these guys have come to my rescue with speed and thorough professionalism. If you bring your infected computer into the shop in the morning, they’ll have it fixed by close of business. If your computer needs parts, most often it will be ready the next day. The fee for computer repair and reprogramming is 100 dollars, and no one beats their service and quick turnaround time.

When the April 2011 twisters hit, many people lost their computers and found them outdoors somewhere mashed, smashed and wet. As amazing as it sounds, they were able to do data recovery service for some mighty damaged units, and helped people get their data, files, and pictures back. Certainly that went a long way toward helping people get their lives back as well. An even more touching example of the effect of their data recovery service was when a soldier was home recently from Afghanistan on leave, and his child erased over 963 documents, videos, pictures and files, some of which were crucial to his role as a warfighter. They were able to get all of it back, and both the child and the soldier are now out of the doghouse!

They will set up networking and business systems on site with purchase, however, are not able at present to be on call as mobile “IT guys.” You have to bring your sick unit to the Mays “ER.” The hope is, however, that eventually they’ll be able to have a fleet of mobile “technoids” that will be able to come to your residence or place of business to get your “cyber-ship” righted again. Another niche they want to fill is that of gaming, and it is becoming a significant part of their business. They have the large gaming screens, the high end video and sound cards, and can set things up so that three gamers can play at a time. They have LCD screens from 17” to 28” in the store. They also repair PlayStation and X Box units when needed.

If your current system is just fine and does not need to be repaired or replaced, there are a number of things you can do to make it hum along even better. You can update your hard drive, increase your RAM storage space, get better sound cards, upgrade your operating system, or increase the quality of your videos by upgrading your video card. They also take trade ins if you are needing a new computer. I have said more than once that the Mays have made me a happy computer camper, and highly recommend them to anyone in North Alabama who is in need of a computer, service or both.
By Ali Elizabeth Turner

Richie Whitten, owner of Speedy Legal, (located on S. Jefferson Street in Athens,) had the great privilege of going to law school at Southern Methodist University, which is considered one of the top schools in the country. He graduated in 1989, clerked for Judge Suttle of the 11th Circuit Court in Florence, and since then, has concentrated his practice on helping folks get Social Security and other types of benefits that they justifiably have coming to them as taxpayers. Before going into private practice, he worked for the Social Security Administration writing legal opinions for five years.

Recently he became aware that there was both a need as well as a market for legal services that could be the most easily described as “simple and straightforward.” The goal became to give clients top quality service for situations such as an uncontested divorce, or preparation of a will without undue expense. I asked Rich why he opened Speedy Legal, and he gave me several reasons. Believe it or not, sometimes practicing law, just like any other business, can become very predictable and somewhat intellectually confining. “I wanted to meet new people,” he said. “Fair enough,” I thought, and then he told me that he wanted to “provide more legal services to more people.” And, as anyone knows, in this economy it is more than smart to have several streams of income, because nothing is certain, and our nation’s financial and business future is, at the very least, looking a bit rocky. In a word, the third reason was to “provide some
cash flow.”

I asked him his opinion of some of the online legal document preparation services that have sprung up in the past few years, and his response was, “It’s a good way for people to get in trouble.” Then he explained that filling in a bunch of online blanks in a template without a professional to watch your back, as well as “dot your ‘I’s and cross T’s” could end up being very expensive
and land you in court.

“If you know what it is that you want, why pay more?” He asked. Seeing as Speedy Legal sets their prices ahead of time, there are no surprises. “If I can help you, the price is set,” he said.

He gave an example of what can go wrong when people try to prepare and file documents either completely on their own or with “help that is not help.” A 44 year old teacher felt it was time to get his affairs in order by preparing his will himself. He was not at all aware of the need for the will to be bonded and named his bank the executor of the estate. The bank charged the estate 5,000 dollars and 3,500 dollars to bond it! He cost his family nearly 10,000 dollars trying to save 50 bucks.

By contrast, Rich’s fees for living wills are pre-set at 50 dollars, and simple wills are 75 dollars. Also, there are no surprises. If either your estate or your particular needs end up being too complicated, you’ll know beforehand, and you can get help from another attorney.

He gave another example when it comes to divorce. “If a couple has been married for 8 years, and has a couple of kids, they want standard visitation schedules and the mandatory child support guidelines are followed, I can save them a great deal of money”. Now, most folks, (myself included,) believe that divorce is dreadful, and many times is made even worse for everyone by unnecessary legal fees. A divorce of the sort described above is 300 dollars.

Most documents can be made available within 24 hours, which is nearly unheard of. Recently I had the uncomfortable experience of qualifying for the senior citizen rate while taking some guests from out of town to Helen Keller’s home in Tuscumbia. I was reminded
that the clock is indeed ticking and my will needs to be drawn up. I am glad that there is something like Speedy Legal and someone like Richie Whitten who will help me get my affairs in order at rates that are more than reasonable. Now, to quote a famous sports shoe company, I need to “just do it!”
By Ali Elizabeth Turner

Caren Sample, owner of the The Bakery At Elkmont does something that some might find interesting and unusual, even in the Bible Belt. She prays over every custom cake she bakes! It’s not that Miss Caren is asking God to intervene and prevent her from causing a train wreck in Cakeland, it’s that she wants it to be as creative, beautiful and excellent as possible, and figures the best way to make that happen is to look to her Creator. Smart girl.

Caren has always made cakes as gifts for people. It energizes her, new ideas keep her awake at night, and as she says with passion, “I
LOVE making cakes!!” She worked for the government for several years, and then the economy went sideways and the contracts vanished. Even while still working 40 hours a week she’d stay up til 3 am to bake her precious creations, and found it was both therapeutic and energizing. It wasn’t until she was all finished that she felt the least bit tired. She eventually took a Wilton Cake class, as well as a private one, and her family and friends encouraged her to “go for it,” i.e., start making custom cakes professionally and full-time as her own boss.

The problem was location and start-up costs, and literally, from the “thinking about it” stage to signing the lease, it was three weeks. A former restaurant in a small strip mall located near the RR tracks on Thach Road near the I-65 overpass opened up out of nowhere, the rent was more than reasonable, and the rest is history.

The Bakery At Elkmont is cozy, with a small old fashioned wire ice cream table and four chairs in the common area, and “wall words” which say “May all who enter as guests leave as friends.” That’s how I felt the day I first met Caren, only a few days after she had opened her doors. She desperately loves God, people, North Alabama, and… the Cake Boss!! I don’t mean that in the wrong way, but she is so impressed with his work that she’d fly to Hoboken, NJ and stand in line for three hours just to get into his bakery, meet him, and sample his baked wares.

In fact, she entered the Cake Boss contest being held in Memphis, but had to drop out due to some scheduling conflicts, but one of her dreams is to try out for the Cake Boss TV program. I do believe between her passion and her talent, she has a clear shot at the title, and the Cake Boss would be remiss if he didn’t choose her as a contestant.

Everything she does is baked fresh, never frozen, and “baked custom.” She loves “the details, and coming up with new ideas.” Just recently she made a Super Mario Brothers birthday cake that was a masterpiece. She makes cup cakes that have different themes each week, and often sells out 2 to 3x a week. She makes “cake pops” on lollipop sticks that look like dalmation puppies, and “smash cakes” for baby’s first or second birthday where doing a “face plant” is not only tolerated, but expected. But there is something more than the “sweetness of something sweet” that drives her to put in long hours and the hard work of being a sole proprietor.

“I want the Bakery At Elkmont to be a place where memories are baked,” she said. “A custom cake helps solidify the memory of an event, makes it go deeper.” Everything is special, fresh, something different. Caren wants the prices to be reasonable, and wants the custom cakes, large or small to be affordable for everyone. “I offer quality products with my own personal touch,” she says.

Business is good. She is booked into mid-July, and right now is averaging about 10 custom cakes a week. She expects to hire someone by fall, and gets help with the counter sales on the days when she has several custom cakes to do. A person more joyful about their work I have rarely seen, and you would do well to make the journey to the Bakery At Elkmont, and taste what Caren calls cakes “baked with love.”