Working: Videotronics owner make a niche in digital age

LEWISTON — Chris Miller knew the woman on the phone.

“Press the up arrow,” Miller said, hunched over a desk in the back room of Videotronics. “I don’t think you’ve pressed the up key. Do you know which one I mean?”

There was no frustration in his voice. No fuss. The burly, 42-year-old Greene man figured it was part of his job.

Since he installed the elderly woman’s flat screen TV a while back, she calls once or twice each week because her TV picture disappears. He spends a few minutes on the phone with her, guiding her until her game shows and soap operas reappear.

“She pushes the wrong button on her remote, and she doesn’t know how to get back,” he said.

It’s all part his self-defined niche. In a tech world that too often sends people searching for help in Internet forums or on 1-800 lines, Miller feels a responsibility to make sure the devices he installs still work weeks or months later.

It’s also the way his dad did it.

His father, Robert, created Videotronics in 1981. It grew out of his own frustration with Cable TV.

“I guess (channels) six, eight and 13 weren’t enough,” Miller said.

When he discovered the local cable company refused to extend service to his home in Greene, he installed a satellite dish in the yard beside their home.

The dish, which looked like a NASA ground station, drew attention. And Robert, who owned an auto service station took the hint. He opened Videotronics and began sales and installations.

“When I was a little kid, I used to help my father put up the big dishes,” the younger Miller said. By the 1990s, he had stopped being a mechanic and started working full time for his dad, who died in 2006.

Today, Chris Miller does most of the installations and his mother, Georgette, runs the Lewiston shop. They try to provide the personalization lost on the big-box stores and online retailers.

“If there’s a problem with your bill, you come to us,” he said. “If you’re moving, you call us. If you want to do an upgrade, you call us. If you’re having problems watching TV, you call us.”

For Chris, that means most days are spent working from his truck.

“I pretty much come in in the morning, grab my stuff and I’m gone,” he said. “Sometimes I work ’till 6:30 or 7:30 at night.”

He installs dishes and antennas atop people’s homes, TVs in their family rooms and the wiring to make it all work. He has also set up large systems, including multi-screen sports bar layouts and complex hotel networks running to dozens of TVs.

He remembers them all.

Once he’s been to a business or a house, he can usually help someone work through a problem without a second visit.

“Nine times out of ten, I can fix it over the phone,” he said.

His recall can shock folks.

“Guys I haven’t seen for six or seven years, they walk in the door and I know their name,” he said. “I know their kids. I know what kind of TV set they have.

“That’s the thing,” Miller said. “I’m your guy.”

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