By LINDSAY CAREY
Rick Barrows opened “The Car Phone Store,” a cell phone franchise, in Southington in March of 1989. Today, the business known as the “Wireless Zone” is still going strong.
Barrows said at the beginning of this journey, he had a business partner and the two were looking to invest in a company that had a future.
“We would always talk about getting into business. We wanted something high tech and that was looking to the future,” said Barrows, who is now the sole owner of the Wireless Zone.
At the beginning, most of his business as a franchise of “The Car Phone Store” was installing car phones into vehicles.
“We certainly didn’t have smart phones back then,” said Barrows.
In 1999, Barrows said the franchise changed their name to the Wireless Zone when smaller phones started to come out.
Ever since, Barrows has been in the business of keeping up with all of the newest technology and stocking the store with the latest in the wireless field.
“It’s challenging because there’s a lot to keep up with, but that’s what makes it fun, too,” he said. “There’s always something new around the corner.”
The local Wireless Zone franchise owner said when he started out, he never could have imagined today’s technology, because it has developed so drastically over the years.
“A lot of times we don’t really know what’s coming out,” he said. “Fifteen years ago you wouldn’t even think of being able to use GPS and email on your phone. I don’t think a lot of people even knew what GPS was back then.”
Barrows said part of his success is due to the level of customer service his business offers.
“I think with a lot of our customers we build relationships they come here and see the same faces in here year after year,” said Barrows. “Some people who come in here still refer to us as ‘The Car Phone Store,’ because that’s how long they’ve been our customers.”
Since he and his employees have managed to build relationships with their customers, many of them recommend friends and family to the business.
“I think [I’ve managed to be successful, because of] the loyalty of our Southington customers and also the support we get from Wireless Zone corporation we get a lot of support form them in terms of marketing and things like that.”
Executive Vice President for Wireless Zone David Staszewski said he’s known Barrows for over 25 years. The EVP said Barrows’ longevity and consistency in business has been outstanding.
“He’s one of the original three franchisees for the company, so he has the longest tenure of any of our franchisees currently,” said Staszewski. He also said Barrows has been doing a remarkable job of exemplifying the company’s core values.
“One of the things we’re known for is how well we take care of our customers and how loyal our customers are,” said Staszewski. “Rick has been successful in Southington, and his Southington customer base has been loyal to him for all the years he’s been doing business.”
The EVP for Wireless Zone also said Barrow’s ability to adapt in the ever-changing cell phone business has been part of the reason he has been so successful over the years.
“The wireless industry changes on a very regular basis,” said Staszewski. “Rick has been able to change with. He has been doing this since there was just an “end” and “send” button on phones and now cell phones are like mini computers.”
Barrows takes the time and effort to keep up with the newest technology and also keep his staff up to date, so as a team they understand their products and can educate customers as the industry changes.
“He treats his staff as if they are an asset to his business and that’s extremely important as well,” said Staszewski.
He also said Barrows received the highest accolade within the company six years ago.
“He was named our franchisee of the year at our 20th anniversary,” said Staszewski. “It’s our most prestigious award and is given for having high standards, productivity, and a sense of community.
The Wireless Zone Corporation EVP also said Barrows has also been an active participant with the Wireless Zone Foundation for Giving and has sponsored events.
He also gives back by participating in a toy drive for the children’s hospital in Newington.
For more information about the Wireless Zone, which is franchised and operated by Automotive Technologies Inc., visit www.wirelesszone.com.