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sacbee.com - The online division of The Sacramento BeeInternet Store helps design Web sites for local businesses

By Ramon Coronado - rcoronado@sacbee.com
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 10, 2008

An Internet Store
An Internet Store is Virtual Draw

Many customers of the Internet Store in Carmichael are businesses that have no walls.

Our clients are working out of a back room from their homes. Or they are doing business in the virtual world in other ways," said Dave Soltis, owner of the Fair Oaks Boulevard business that designs Web sites.

Celebrating his ninth year this month, the 48-year-old Soltis said since opening his doors, he has helped at least 1,000 small- to medium-size businesses, churches, artists and others who reach into the Internet for commerce and communication.

Some are simple, read-only Web sites, while others are so interactive that a complete transaction can take place from making a selection to ordering to delivery, all in one sitting.

Soltis, who describes himself as self-taught in Web site design, is a graduate of Penn State with a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering.

Starting out as a commercial contractor erecting buildings for retail businesses, Soltis switched to building in virtual worlds before e-mail was commonplace. "As technology grew, we grew with it," he said of his largely one-man operation. Soltis runs the business with a small staff, including contract help on special projects and student interns.

Over the years, Soltis has branched out to building an interactive educational game for the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Ancil Hoffman Park in Carmichael and another educational kiosk at Folsom Dam. For six years, he had a tourist kiosk at the visitors center in Old Town Sacramento.

He helped design the Web site for the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and has developed touch-screen information kiosks at area motels containing public information that shows local businesses, accommodations, entertainment and restaurants.

In addition to the Web sites and kiosks, Soltis likes to call his 800-square-foot shop near Fair Oaks Boulevard and California Avenue an Internet cafe.

Unlike cyber cafes, where free wireless Internet access is provided as a lure to buy food and coffee, Soltis provides free coffee and tea while customers use his five computer stations for a fee to work on their Web sites, scan or print photos, make brochures and make copies of compact discs and DVDs.

But the primary part of Soltis' business is building Web sites like the one he set up for Daniel Jurin, the founder of StyroTrim.com, a company that makes stucco- and concrete-coated architectural accents and trims for windows and doors.

"I'm able to market a national brand from my Web site. I don't have business cards, and I don't have to talk to people. I pay a fee to a warehouse, and they take the orders and ship them out," Jurin said.

Soltis charges anywhere from $90 to $9,000, depending upon its complexity, to design a Web site. At any one time, he said, he has about 100 customers.

"A typical walk-in is about a $2,000 investment. Our best year was last year," he said. "What I have seen is that our existing customers are expanding their existing Web sites."

While many other business ventures are struggling to survive on the Internet, Soltis said he is making a decent living.

"It's not easy. You just can't hang your shingle out there. That isn't enough," he said.

The key to a successful Web site is get to the top of the list of search engines for specific key words that people use to find products and services.

Some search engines charge for giving certain Web sites a higher ranking, Soltis said.

"You don't pay unless somebody clicks your site. That's called pay-per-click advertising," Soltis said of one advertising scheme.

"Most people stay on a Web site for 90 seconds. You need to capture their attention," he said.

Soltis has high hopes for the future of Web site design.

"Every year, people are becoming more and more comfortable with the Internet," he said. "It will become a must-have for any business and for it to be interactive with customers.

"What's exciting about the Internet is that it is growing and so is the technology," he said.

Soltis can be reached at: www.aninternetstore.com www.aninternetcafe.com


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