I met with another IT company to get a second bid for our computer upgrades. (I would have done so anyway, but the fact that the first guy I met with disappeared after promising a quote the next day made it quite necessary.) They came highly recommended by my old boss at RHA, and after just a few minutes it became clear that this company better understood a small business like our bookstore. The owner of the company came out and after looking around and asking questions started discussing possible solutions. Some of his observations corroborated the previous company's ideas: the wiring is a hot mess that needs to be cleaned up and/or replaced, our computers are old and possibly failing, and it's going to take a lot of troubleshooting hours to get things running smoothly. But this company was more willing to work with the fact that we (obviously) don't have a lot of money for the project. He broke down the project into what he thought had to be done immediately, what could wait, and what might not be necessary at all. He was upfront about the costs of bringing himself or one of his employees to the site, but suggested that for simple fixes he might be able to teach me or Sean how to do it on one computer and then let us complete the action on the other machines. He also wanted to talk to the company that makes our inventory software so that he could better understand what the store needed - an idea that the other company didn't propose and didn't seem interested in pursuing when I suggested it.
When he left, we had a definite game plan: next week he will stop by with another contractor that does the wiring for his projects so that they can give us an estimate for how much re-networking the whole store would cost. To demonstrate the benefits of this, he drew a map of proposed replacement network with such simplicity that both our bookkeeper and I could understand it. And he was upfront with the cost: from past experience his best guess was that a new network would run us between $1000-$2000, but since it wasn't his area of expertise he could be off. That at least gave us a number to play with.
RHA hires good people so I trust that this company will do a good job, even if they're a little more expensive than other companies out there. The boss wants me to call around and get a few more estimates though, just to make sure we'll be getting the best deal we can.