YOUR HOMETOWN: Knight Owls On A Mission

Dayton Computer Firm: It’s On The Inside That Counts

Posted: March 19, 2014

Nic Harper, partner and chief tech and manager for Knight Owl Tech in Dayton, replaces a power board for a laptop screen on Tuesday. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)

DAYTON — Knight Owl Tech seems to have — and do — a little bit of everything.

For example, it’s not every day someone walks into a store seeking a new, possibly customized computer, or repairs to his or her current one, and is graced with the presence of swords.

But the basic formula the Main Street company’s three partners abide by is a familiar one, and one that apparently works: treat customers as they would want to be treated.

“If we help them out, they’ll help us out in the long run,” said Nic Harper, 21, one of the partners in the computer troubleshooting and building business. “We’re definitely not the cheapest, but we get the job done.”

The name Knight Owl is co-founder Sean Burke’s way of recognizing where his children went to school — they were Turner Ashby Knights — and is also a nod to his and a silent partner’s history as “night owls.”

The swords hanging up around the business are from the silent partner’s interest in fencing, said Harper, who joined Knight Owl about six months ago after closing his shop, Twice Baked Computers at 255 College St.

“It seems like five years,” he said.

And that’s meant as a reference to staying busy, which seems reasonable for all the various projects the four-year-old company takes on. It repairs desktop and laptop computers; builds custom ones; repairs and sets up televisions for home theaters; and produces signs for companies, among other services.

Knight Owl also offers free estimates for customers with computer problems.

Its building on the south end of town is not the “prettiest” or “biggest show-boating,” Harper concedes, but that’s not the point.

Sort of like a computer — it’s what’s on the inside that matters.

“If we get somebody who just happens to see the sign [outside] and comes in, we usually have to deal with their whole family by the end of the day,” Harper said. “We have very loyal customers who trust us.”

Burke, 45, said he wants people to tell him when the company “messes up.”

“We don’t want upset customers,” he said. “The majority of what we do is word-of-mouth.”

Computer viruses can come from anywhere, leading many people to return for help.

Some James Madison University students also “don’t know how to stay off some sites,” giving Knight Owl extra return business, Harper said.

For hardware-related problems, though, the company usually doesn’t see the same machine for two or three years after its first visit, he said. That time is extended for the custom computers, which Harper says takes him three hours, on average, to build.

“Joe Schmo probably can do it in 30 minutes,” he said. “I love building a computer from start to finish. …  I try to do a good job. I don’t like to be sloppy. I’m not here to take in a paycheck and run home and buy a bunch of crazy stuff.”

Burke started the company with the silent partner to meet the needs of a growing customer base. A “military brat” who moved with his family to the area several years ago, Harper joined Knight Owl because he saw what Burke’s 20 years of experience meant to his own development as a businessman.

“Do I want to work with the best,” he said, “or do I want to compete with one of the better technicians in the area?”

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or

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