By Susanne Beck
Daniel Park is the owner of Shine Electronic (no “s”) & Computer, recently relocated from West 84th Street to 137 West 83rd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. He is also the store’s lead technician, who fixes all forms of electronic and computer products, including laptops, cellphones, televisions, remotes, and more, as well as wireless and wired systems in offices and homes.
The store’s name – “Shine” – is a reference to a psalm that Daniel found inspiring when he first took the helm of the repair shop almost 30 years ago. It’s also an apt description of the man himself and the cheerful countenance he wears as he greets customers from behind his new high-top counter. But don’t mistake his gentle ways for lack of drive. As one of his loyal customers, Lloyd, says, “Daniel is gutsy…[and] very resourceful. He takes on things that he may not know a lot about and gets them done. [He’s] the ultimate American immigrant success story.”
Hong Min Bag (Daniel’s given name) arrived in New York City from South Korea, alone, in 1986, with a childhood penchant for dismantling radios (“I broke a lot too!” he laughs), a degree in electrical engineering, additional training in the South Korean Navy, and a dream. “Good economics here. Good for work. Much better than South Korea,” Daniel says, explaining his leap into the unknown. He headed to Flushing, Queens, where there is a large Korean community. Despite very limited English, he soon landed a part-time job in electronics. He enrolled in Queens College at night, taking ESL and electronics classes. He became a certified technician for Sony and Samsung products.
In his first years in the U.S., Daniel worked — a lot. In his few free hours on weekends, looking to connect to a community, he started attending Korean church services. “I’m not religious but I go and meet nice people… They looked like they were my own family.” Soon, he met the woman who would become his wife. They married in November, 1998.
One part-time job led to another, and with a growing repertoire of technical skills and a never-ending hunger to make it in America, Daniel arrived seven years later on the Upper West Side, at DJ Electronics on West 81st Street. Within a matter of years, through hard work and a frugal lifestyle, he had saved enough for the business to become his.
By February 2020, Daniel’s version of the American Dream was in full bloom. He was his own boss with a growing list of happy customers, like attorney David Wander who turned to him for traditional electronics repairs, as well as computer-related hardware and software issues, and data transfer. “He’s a genius. And his prices! So low!“ David exclaims. “We love Daniel. He’s just great.”
Daniel made himself indispensable, arriving for house calls whenever his clients needed him. “I go to people’s houses, do big [sound, lighting, and computer] systems with like, subwoofer, DVD, and universal remote,” he says with satisfaction. David makes it clear the feeling goes both ways. “He takes care of us so we take care of him…He fixes all the stuff in my home office.” And perhaps, most tellingly, he adds: “He’s the only one my wife will allow in the apartment.”
Daniel’s family was thriving as well. His wife was overseeing her own small business, a nail salon on East 83rd Street and Lexington Avenue that had been started by her father. Their daughter was doing well at Boston University. Ever mindful of those around him, Daniel was also giving back, refurbishing old computers and electronics to donate to those in need in Chisek, Guatemala, through a program he learned about at church.
COVID’s arrival was an abrupt wakeup call from his dream. Like the rest of New York City, Shine Electronic was forced to close in April and May 2020. While some clients continued to ship broken items to Daniel via UPS, his revenue sank. “It was close to nothing. No one came down in April even though computers were considered essential service.” He was fortunate to receive two rounds of PPP support – “for a little utility, salary” – and tried to negotiate a discount on his rent but to no avail. With his wife’s business closed as well, he dug into his meager savings to get by.
Shine hobbled along into the summer. “Business after June or July was 20-25% down. We were pretty lucky though,” Daniel says. For the housebound and those working from home, computers were a lifeline. House calls inched up despite COVID concerns and the need for safety protocols. “Everyone needed a computer at home and wireless network services.”
Perhaps more challenging for Daniel was watching his wife struggle at her nail salon. “Very tough. A lot of rent. A lot of employees. But still she’s doing it. Landlord gave her a really good deal so she was still able to survive.”
His landlord was not as accommodating, causing Daniel to relocate yet again just weeks ago, from 84th street to his current home on West 83rd. The rent is a bit higher, but he likes his new space. It’s bigger (plenty of room for his assistant technician, Min, and him to work), and recently renovated. And with the post office next door and a school at the end of the block, there’s the potential for more foot traffic once the “Shine Electronic” sign is installed out front (Daniel has never advertised, relying on Google searches and word of mouth).
In the meantime, Daniel prefers to turn the spotlight away from himself to those who have been vital to his survival so far. “Three people were very, very helpful to me,” he says. “Lester, a lawyer. He helped me with the lease every time I moved. David Wander, also a lawyer, also helped me with the lease. And Louis Ginsburg, real estate guy, helped me find a place.”
Daniel continues to redirect the conversation. “Please tell readers that I will take their old equipment for people in Guatemala. I remove all personal stuff. Fix up computers, fix hard drive and software, and give them away.” His face shines, his smile is shy. And then, quietly, he bows his head, grateful for all that he has been given so far.