Where in the world is B3 Computers? That's what officials in Marquette
County, Michigan, and a host of VARs are wondering after the system builder's Web site went down and its phones were disconnected.
B3 appears to be behind in repaying or in default of various county loans totaling more than $500,000, according to a July report in The Mining Journal, a Michigan-area newspaper. One county commissioner said in the report that B3's corporate offices in Gwinn, Mich., had been abandoned.
Customers and lenders alike are puzzled over what has happened.
"We have been trying to figure that out for quite some time," said Chris Chaltron, senior technician at Creative Computer Solutions of Michigan, a Troy, Mich.-based VAR.
Creative Computer Solutions was a B3 customer for several years before it began to find that components needed for custom-built PCs were out of stock and orders placed for customers were delivered in three to five days, instead of the promised two days. About a year ago, the VAR switched to another system builder, Chaltron said.
Chaltron, who said he recently read about B3's troubles in a local newspaper, is concerned because there are still many B3 systems at Creative Computer Solutions' customer sites. "There are two- to three-year warranties on these systems, and we will need to support them if something goes wrong," he said.
Chaltron said Creative Computer Solutions began working with B3 when that company was doing business in California. B3 moved to Michigan in 2004.
CRN was unable to contact B3 and its president, Fred Schlaffer, at its headquarters. B3's Web site, www.b3.com, was also out of commission.
Marquette County Commissioner Bob Struck told CRN he had spoken with B3 executives last winter and they indicated that they were not selling as many systems as they would have liked due to poor economic conditions. He confirmed that B3's building had been abandoned and its phones were not working.
B3 was listed at No. 20 in CRN's 50 Leading System Builders report this year. The company reported that it brought in revenue of $8.2 million in 2005 and employed 26 people.
B3 also was recognized in CRN's 2004 and 2005 Fast Growth System Builders reports wherein Schlaffer said B3 served about 1,400 VARs, including many ASCII Group members.