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Getting to know your neighbor: Wireless Zone keeps Springville residents connected

PUTTING ITS BEST FOOT FORWARD — Wireless Zone occupies a corner store in the plaza next to Wal-Mart on South Cascade Drive and employs 14 employees, about half of whom are local. Photos by Lizz Schumer.
SPRINGVILLE — The Wireless Zone in Springville is ranked in the chain’s top 15 locations out of a total of 422, and franchise owner Dave Bogart said that accomplishment is due to his commitment to making sure each customer walks out of his store with the best phone fit.

“These days, people can’t live without their phones,” Bogart said. “A lot of people spend more time with their phones than their spouses or their kids, so we want to make sure they’re comfortable with what they have.”

Bogart, who has been a franchise owner for 10 years and has owned and operated the Springville location of the Verizon retailer for 6 1/2 years, said that he “could not have gotten into a better business.”

He started out working at a start-up company after college, but once that business was bought out by Calspan, he began working as a computer programmer. The former businessman kept one eye out for business opportunities and, when the chance to open a franchise in Hornell, N.Y. presented itself, Bogart said he jumped at it. Two more locations in Lockport and Olean followed that first venture, before East Aurora and Springville joined the team.

Today, Bogart still operates the Lockport, East Aurora and Springville locations, a slight downsize from five locations to three, which he said grew out of his commitment to stay close to his customers.

“The business is successful, but I like that it’s small because I can have a direct impact on what happens on the floor in each location,” he said. “I feel personally responsible for what goes on. [Keeping it at three locations] allows me to give customers that experience that keeps them coming back.”

Part of that commitment shows in the people Bogart hires, who he said are extensively trained in the wide variety of products and services his business offers. Overall, Bogart manages 36 employees, 14 of whom work in Springville.

SHOWING OFF THEIR WARES — Wireless Zone in Springville offers 34 types of phones, as well as tablets, broadband wireless devices and accessories.
“There are a number of national agents that carry multiple carriers, but they don’t provide the level of service that we do. We really are the Verizon experts.”

Wireless Zone started out 25 years ago, selling several now-defunct brands of satellites. About 19 years ago, it began distributing brands that would later merge to become Verizon Wireless, the products the company sells today. Although there have been many changes in the technology over the years, Bogart said that, so far, this has been “our biggest decade yet.

“There’s a lot to learn. A lot of [potential employees] come in thinking they just need to remember, ‘unlimited Verizon-to-Verizon, unlimited nights and weekends,’ but there’s a lot more to it than that.”

In order to keep up with the 34 phone models the store carries, employees undergo both in-person and online training, although Bogart said a lot of his hiring decisions come out of a person’s having the right mentality for the job and learning on the floor.

“We need people who have a good personality, take good care of our customers and are willing to learn. The business only succeeds if people come in and buy phones.”

He added that he gets new customers “all the time,” despite a wealth of choices for potential buyers.

TAKE YOUR PICK — Pictured are some of the products the store has on display.
“People do make impulse buys, but overall, our sales have increased over the years. We are the biggest, fastest-growing carrier around.”

Bogart attributed the growth of the cell phone industry to the “culture change” brought about when the iPhone®, what he called the “Kleenex® of smart phones,” switched its image from a business phone to a handheld entertainment center.

“It happened fast. The iPhone started and then the Android® followed suit and it went from, ‘Why do I need a smart phone?’ to, ‘I can’t live without email on my phone.’”

Despite the economic downturn the United States, as a whole, has experienced over the past few years, Bogart said his business has seen only a slight lull, which he attributed to some Verizon policy changes and the buzz about the latest iPhone, due out in September.

“Some people are waiting for the iPhone 5®. Every time a new iconic device comes out, you’ll have those people who will run out and get it that first day. Everyone knows the [new model] is coming.”

SHOWING OFF THEIR WARES — Wireless Zone in Springville offers 34 types of phones, as well as tablets, broadband wireless devices and accessories.
Wireless Zone sells both iPhone and Android products, although Bogart said the Android outsells the iPhone 3-to-1.

“A lot of people just want a good phone and the [latest and greatest] are not always for them. It’s about what’s right for each person. What works for me doesn’t always work for everyone. That’s a key part of what we do.”

Phone sales make up 75 – 80 percent of Wireless Zone’s sales, although Bogart said the mobile broadband devices are also popular, particularly in rural areas where wireless Internet might not be available.

“A lot of people use the mobile broadband as their only [source of] Internet. Wherever Verizon works, this works,” he explained. “Farmers, or someone who has a lot of property, can take the [mobile broadband device] out with their laptop or iPad® and it works.”

He noted that customers who travel frequently, including snowbirds and Canadians with second residences in Ellicottville, also find his devices convenient.

“It turns your car into a hotspot,” Bogart explained. “And if you use it five times, it pretty much pays for itself.”

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? — Displays change depending on what products are on offer at any given time.
As Wireless Zone employees continue working to stay abreast of the changes in the industry and technology, Bogart said he tries to make sure his staff members do not stereotype potential customers.

“That’s one of the hard things,” he said. “Everybody wants a cell phone. We have to not make assumptions of people, based on who they are, about what they’re capable of. Everybody’s a smart phone candidate. We just have to find the right one for them.”

Wireless Zone is located at 231 South Cascade Drive in the village of Springville. For more information, including hours and services offered, the business can be reached at 592-4756 or online at www.wirelesszone.com/springville.
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