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Cell Phones for Less in Syracuse, NY with Anas Almaletti

Episode #: 036
Cell Phones for Less in Syracuse, NY with Anas Almaletti

Guest: Anas Almaletti
Topics: Cell Phones for Less, entrepreneurship


Chris Ressa 0:02
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris Ressa. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management.

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Welcome to retail retold everybody. Today we have a NAS Amelie at he is the CEO of cell phones for less. They operate 27 locations under the Cricut banner. Welcome to the show.

Anas Almaletti 1:20
Thank you, Chris, for having me.

Ressa 1:22
So in us, why don’t you tell us a little bit about you and your story and how you got to 27 locations.

Almaletti 1:28
Sure. So I was born and raised in Jordan, a place that not a lot of people are familiar with. It’s somewhere in the Middle East. I really wanted to grow up to become a doctor. And I moved to the US Syracuse, New York, the town because I had some relatives that were in this town. And I started out with at OCC studying math and science on that path of becoming and going into medical school. Shortly really going into that I discovered that this was not really the thing for me because I am not into dissecting. And looking at blood, it was just not really all that I want it to be. And so I decided Alright, maybe I’m good at chemistry, I will do chemistry, I transferred to Binghamton University studied chemistry and math over there, finished. And I’m like, I’m not really comfortable spending 12 hours in the lab and not getting any value on return on my investment in the time is spending a lot in the experiments. But it’s a brutal world out in the science world. And I wasn’t really getting much value or anything that is passion. So I said, I will take a year off. And I took a year off in 2009 until I just wanted to figure out what I want to do with my life, maybe study more chemistry, or do something else. And then my father at the time was having some health issues and I said alright, I’ll just help him. He owned a cell phone store. He was doing use felons and repairs in a small town and called Eastwood in Syracuse. And I helped him out with with that. And I slowly started realizing I really like dealing, managing people, marketing products, and figuring out a way to tweak the business world was very appealing in the sense that you were able to see tangible benefits of the work that you are putting. And I got really excited about that. So I started saying okay, maybe I want to add more value to this. And you know, one location added to the other and sometimes in 2011 I was like, I really want to scale the business one day I would like to grow this operation and make it really huge, but I didn’t really know what that looks like I just knew that I wanted to scale and I but I realized that I didn’t really have the the teachings if you will that how to scale a business. So I ended up getting my MBA at Syracuse University and then right around 2014 We I finished the MBA and only had two locations. One of them was Cricket Wireless. And AT and T had been trying to get into the prepaid segment of the product. So the wireless industry is really two pillars. There’s the there’s the postepay, which is about 90% of the consumer base. And then there’s the prepaid which is 10 really less about 10 or a little bit more than that. So at&t wanted to get into the prepaid space, their strip strategy at the time was this is where the growth is. postpaid was stagnating, they had made an attempt earlier attempt at acquiring T Mobile a couple of years earlier it did that work. So they acquired Cricut and it was a going to be a fighter brand and that one that they can go after a customer base or competition in ways that didn’t want to do with their brand. And they would offer they would allow Cricut to use the 18 T network and then would have much you would target a customer that was more cost conscious consumer really and from that moment it was okay so you got the the AT and T coverage and network and then you have the price have a much cheaper, more affordable, simpler product. And that was really it. The rest was history, we were like, Okay, this is a no brainer that we got to grow. And that will grow with cricket. And it was really the best decision that I’ve ever done in my life is to grow with the Cricket Wireless brand, because the company is so incredible in supporting their authorized retailers across the country. They’re growth oriented, and they operate in a way that I don’t really see many organizations operate in that way. So we expanded and I got to see the beauty of Central New York and the upstate area, because having moved from the desert into the snow weather was a completely different change. And I hated it for the first 10 years living in upstate New York. But through researching locations for Cricket Wireless, I really started appreciating the beauty of all of New York and what it has to offer. And and it’s been just an incredible ride. And so there was a lot of you know, back and forth of driving. In fact, in one year, I put more than 100,000 miles on my car, just scouting out looking for locations across the upstate region.

Ressa 6:09
So so when you were transitioning from the science world, to the business world, how did you land on cell phones?

Almaletti 6:21
Yeah, you know, I really, it was mainly because my father had just started a cell phone business, and it was just one location. And I just wanted to help him out to fix the problems that he was experiencing, and just move on to something else or discover what I really wanted to do. And I really in science, I started with it because I thought I was good at it. I was and I thought that what was you needed is do that? No, I thought that I was passionate because I was good at that or something. And I’m like, okay, but then I did cellphones, and it was really good at what I was doing. And it was what was driving my passion, not the other way around. It’s not your passion that drives your fulfillment, it was that you’re good at something, you want to become better at it that it drives your passion was the other way around. And it just started really giving me a feeling of self fulfillment that I had not discovered or seen in the scientific arena.

Ressa 7:17
Awesome. That’s really great self awareness there. And so getting getting ramped up, was it really capital intensive to start to go from one to two and get to the other locations? How did you you know, a lot of going from one to two, I see a lot of entrepreneurs do going from two to three they do. And then over that people start to really struggle to scale. And you mentioned scale. What for you was like the point that whether it was cash or strategy or a combination that that helped you start to scale up to get to 27?

Almaletti 8:02
Yeah, so you know, it’s really it’s an interesting question. You know, you always obviously, as an entrepreneur, cash is your biggest bottleneck, you’re always really looking at that. And then trying to figure out making sure that you never really run out of it. That’s rule number one. So you never run out of it. But what really so what I ended up looking at is the business as the economics is it, is it viable? And if it was, how do I find the cash to do it, so I ended up in 2015, taking out a loan for $200,000. And it was at the time like I want to build that for five locations. And then we then see how that goes. And so we that’s really the started of it. And we launched in the capital area, the Albany the greater capital area and the opening. So we started with one location, and then I got really more comfortable Okay, that’s the concept is working. So then I added another location and that was our strategy was go in the mall location, build out kiosks and see just to see the proof of concept because it’s a new market, you’re launching in there, you want to really test it out a work the second one work that third one within and there was like four or five months in between, you’re just really trying to prove that okay, it’s there, you know, the product is viable. People really want this, and then continued in there. But I think you know, right now I am I’m reaching at that moment, I was doing everything right, like really ordering inventory, processing payroll, doing the HR reviewing everything myself, because it was just so small that there’s really not much of scalability. At that time. You just couldn’t really afford to how to hire people to do that. All that you were really doing is just bootstrapping and grinding it out until you have a liquid and viable business and sustainable that cares. So that was really just how do I have enough cash and then make sure that you don’t screw up open in these locations and make sure that you’re doing it, and then in putting the right location, the strategy was really grow, my strategy was grow where you’re planted, you know, I don’t really have in terms of, you know, cricket sets the tone of the overall corporate strategy, their strategy is really simple, affordable wireless, and having the best Wi Fi and prepaid network in the industry. So that’s the strategy, they said it. But on a local level, what I said is just really grow, where you’re planted, where you’re familiar with grow in those areas, and Don’t overextend yourself in a way that doesn’t allow you to respond to market changes. So we did that. But there was until that moment, there was really not much focus on the people aspect of, you know, you got to make sure that you have your infrastructure, you got to have your shirt, you got your cash, and then strategy and then people strategy grow where you’re planted. It’s it’s complex, but it’s just, uh, not much involved in their cash, you secure a loan. Infrastructure is like your processes that you put in place that are really hold things together. I was learning that on the job. Like, it’s like, literally just you’re flying, it’s like an airplane, you’re building your wings on your way down, because you just, and that was just really learning that the management aspect of it. And so two things that I was learning on the job is to build your processes, and then managing people and becoming a better manager in that process. And that’s a whole world in and of itself.

Ressa 11:28
Great. And so how many employees do you have today?

Almaletti 11:32
We are at 70. Today?

Ressa 11:35
And is that people in the stores as well as in your office?

Almaletti 11:39
Yes. Yep, both of them. So we have people in the store and then our back office, we tried to optimize to the best of our ability to reduce the support per store. As long as you’re optimizing you’re doing, you’re doing what needs to be done in that category.

Ressa 11:54
How many people does it take to run a cricket store?

Almaletti 11:58
It really depends on the store on average, two to three people, if you are really efficient in what you do, some stores will require four or five people depending on the traffic flow of the store.

Ressa 12:10
And so you have locations in kiosks and malls, and you have storefronts as well. What’s the breakdown of the two?

Almaletti 12:21
So we’re really go walking away from the kiosk model these days into just storefronts. And so we’re really we only have about four kiosks of our old portfolio and only five total mall locations. So four of them are kiosks one is in line, and the rest of them are in shopping centers, or standalone.

Ressa 12:43
Got it? And so give everyone a little perspective. You mentioned the prepaid world Cricket Wireless, what what network? Does cricket have their own network? Are they using someone else’s? Now how does it work?

Almaletti 12:58
So cricket is is a subsidiary of a TNT and they use the AT and T network, they have the access to the network. Most people really get confused. Well, if I’m using the 18 T network, why should I pay the prices for the AT and T and not just go on the cricket, there’s really just minor differences between the being a crazy customer and the at&t, the two that I can think of the major ones are the ability to roam. So if you’re a Cricut customer, and you’re in a spot where the 18 T network is spotty, you’re not able to roam off of other networks. Okay? Now if you’re an AT and T customer, you’d be able to roll them off of Verizon off of T Mobile. And that’s so the roaming agreement. Now the company really covers 99.9% of Americans, you know, it’s very rare where you’ll see those spots. So that’s one difference. The other is your ability to roam internationally. So in in the at&t world, if you’re in a TNT customer, you travel abroad, you’re able to pay in Rome, whereas with cricket, you’re unable to just do that just go outside the country. We do have services in Canada, and Mexico that you’re able to use your phone without having to really incur roaming charges. So these are really the two major differences between the two apps side of that the network is incredibly great. Just not much really a difference between that and cricket and at&t. And a lot of people are shocked when they know that.

Ressa 14:28
Yeah. Is there differences in like, services? Can I get any phone I want on cricket, anything like that?

Almaletti 14:34
Yeah, anything that’s compatible with the 18 T network, you’re compatible with cricket? Typically, it’s a GSM network so you can get whatever phone as long as it’s unlocked and compatible with the network. You can you can just you either bring your own devices, or we have a you know, a product line about 20 skews of different phones that you could select from

Ressa 14:56
and what is the pricing difference for like What does it cost to Cricut per month versus 18? at&t? Is it unlimited data?

Almaletti 15:07
Yes, I know, unlimited data, really, most carriers right now are offering unlimited data. But you know, you have to really express it to talk more about what Unlimited is. Because there’s like prioritization of networks, you hear that term thrown around, they used to be throttling, where, if you exceed 20 gigabytes a month of data usage, you get throttled down there was used get slowed down. Right now there has been a shift in the industry where it’s called prioritization, you’re not really slowed down. As long as the network is not congested. If the network can handle, you know, let’s say that there is a game a basketball game, and there’s 50,000 people using there might be some congestions in the network. So that prioritization, if you’re a person that reached 22, gigabytes, and somebody else has only used five gigabytes, the prioritization of the network goes to them before it goes to you. So that’s what and so we have unlimited data, it’s very rare that people get, you know, prioritize, but the prices range, depending on what array plans, the most popular plan that people get is the unlimited more, it’s $60 a month taxes and fees included, you get unlimited data, the fastest LTE speeds available, and compare that to the postepay on at&t, that same plan is about 100 120 bucks. When it’s all said and done.

Ressa 16:31
That’s unbelievable. And do you know how many cricket ‘s there are nationally?

Almaletti 16:37
Yes, there is about 5000 locations in the US for Cricket Wireless right now. It is the fastest growing prepaid brand in the in the country.

Ressa 16:50
And, and most of those are franchise, right?

Almaletti 16:53
Yes, most of them are. We are called authorized retailers. So most of these locations, in fact, about 99% of them are authorized retailers. Right.

Ressa 17:03
And your your biggest competitors are Metro PCS and boost.

Almaletti 17:08
Yes, you know, those in the in that in our category of prepaid. Those are the two that are the biggest competitor for us.

Ressa 17:16
And so when you say prepaid, and that’s the big distinction. How do I I pay you before the service turns on or how what does that mean?

Almaletti 17:27
Chris? That’s a good question. Right? When actually the definition of prepaid and postpaid used to be it was, it’s really just that it’s like you pay before the service versus after the service. But in every other aspect of the Word, it really has converged years ago, the prepaid it used to be you pay by the minute, in fact, there’s still that stigma today with people when they hear prepaid. So do I pay by the minutes? Is it just gonna be like I get I pay 10 bucks, and then I get to honor minutes. But it’s really the same except for the timing of when you pay it prepaid, you pay me today, you get your service for the next 30 days post pay, you get your service today for the next 30 days. And then that’s when you’re, you’re billed. Outside of that technicality, there’s really not much of a difference and outside of just the billing aspect of it.

Ressa 18:20
And the billing, is it really only the first payment that’s different.

Almaletti 18:26
Yeah, I mean, everything else is really just from the billing aspect of it is the same. Absolutely. Wow. So it’s converging the line between prepaid, it’s really we’re getting into almost like a singularity point between these lines that are converging. In fact, if you look at the difference in price point, you know, we have in the industry or something we call ARPU, average revenue per user. It used to be 60 bucks for the postepay guys. And now because of the competitive nature of the industry, it’s getting lower. So now it’s like on the post by side, they’re getting 4042 bucks, you know, mid 40s range for the and the prepaid side is getting, you know, 3334. So, the over the last really 10 years, you have seen the convergence, and it overtime is going to continue to accelerate that convergence between how much the prepaid user pays versus how much the postpaid users paying and the industry is going through magnificent changes in the last three years with the you know, consolidation between T Mobile and sprint and the brands. You know, most people don’t know that Metro PCS is owned by T Mobile and that boost is owned by sprint, and they’re consolidating their brands with the merger that has taken place in the last three months.

Ressa 19:42
Wow. Yeah, that is that is remarkable. And the so you have 27 locations and when people think about you say authorized retailer or a franchisee they, they’re typically like You know, you take a QSR. And let’s say there’s a million dollars and the franchisor gets a percentage of that total revenue. It’s a little bit different in your world on how you know, the franchisor gets or the corporate gets paid. How does it work with those in the prepaid world?

Almaletti 20:17
Yeah, so it’s really interesting. That’s precisely one of the reasons why we’re called offer as retailers net franchisees, because the model business model is different. You know, we’re fortunate that cricket does not charge us a portion of our sales because of a franchising See, or that goes into marketing, or any of that, you know, they company recognizes that there are so many expenses as it is for the authorized retailers to deal with. So they’re really not interested in that, in fact, they offer so much help and building out your locations, from A to Z, you know, we really don’t get involved outside of picking up and then making sure that you’re building it, the company is just incredible in the way in the support that they offer. So there is no franchise fees, none of that stuff, and they offer so much subsidy, and to helping the authorized retailer, you know, they’re really their way of doing businesses, how can we get the authorized retailer to succeed? Because their success means our success?

Ressa 21:23
Wow. So how do they make money?

Almaletti 21:26
You know, it’s a subscription based model. And so you, you activate, if you’re a customer, and you activate your service with Cricut, today, you end up paying your monthly bill. And that’s how they’re getting there, you know, increases your customer base, the more customers that you have, the more revenues that you will get every month, and you continue to grow that customer base. So it’s a subscription based on a monthly recurring basis.

Ressa 21:52
So you don’t get the when, when your customer pays the monthly bill that doesn’t go to you.

Almaletti 21:58
So it does not go to me, I can go into the specifics of that comp structure. But I get a piece of that as well. I don’t get all of it, but I get I get I get a piece of it as part of that compensation.

Ressa 22:11
Okay. And so how’s it been? Through COVID? Have you been? You are an essential retailer.

Almaletti 22:18
Yes, we are considered an essential retailer. And we have been Chris incredibly lucky. You know, we’re lucky to have, we were lucky to be an essential business in the sense that we help people really connect with their loved ones at a time where connectivity is of the utmost value. I mean, there has never been a a time where the resilience of our product and business model has been tested. And when we survived COVID 19, in the midst of a global pandemic, it gives you if there was ever really a doubt about the business model, I put the rest up that doubt. Now there is there’s no doubt that the consumer behavior of shopping is going to change. I mean, there’s nothing that going we I don’t really think that it will be the same after post COVID-19. And so we’re looking at making adjustments. But it’s been, we’ve been incredibly lucky to have cricket headquarters in our corner, because they have really stepped in every step of the way to recognize that this thing is really huge. And we need to support the AR, the authorized retailers. And they have stepped up in ways that I honestly did not did I didn’t see it coming. So it helped us keep our employees on the payroll, you know, we were able to some of our locations have closed. More locations, close half of our locations have the 27. So and by the end of March, have our locations were closed. But we did not lay off a single employee. Throughout, really until this moment in our New York operation. We operate in New York and Pa Pa was a different setup. But in New York, we have not laid off a single employee because of COVID-19 because Cricket was able to support us, even when our locations are closed, even we’re not generating revenues for them. They were supporting us in that process. So we didn’t really lay off anybody even though we people that were sitting home, we were able to pay them, you know, some of our employees, we paid them 350 hours of PTO, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it. So cricket has been able to support us and we we received the PPV funding, you know, the government has really stepped in in ways that was very surprising. The the speed and there’s a lot of controversy on the TV but I thought that they have done an incredible job of getting into infusing that to small businesses and it really helped us so we have been you know, one of the lucky ones to say you know what, we are going to really survive and emerge out of this stronger than we walked into

Ressa 24:58
it and in The locations that stayed open, were sales down were were they the same? Were they up?

Almaletti 25:06
You know, it was different. I’ll tell you that I was in a in March and the beginning of April, it was down, compared to what it was. But towards the end of April, we were seeing some increase in activities in some locations. And then other locations, we saw a decrease in activities. It really depended on the locations. And when we look at it, how fast the COVID-19 was spreading in that area, what was the dynamic? And how, what was the fear factor of the consumer in those areas. So there’s really a lot of it wasn’t really clear cut. But overall, overall, we kind of benefited in the some of the locations benefit when the mall locations have closed, you know, Apple, the electronic stores have closed, we saw an increase in our sales on the Apple product and some of the doors actually

Ressa 26:01
interesting. That’s interesting. So what’s next? What, how many locations do you want to get to?

Almaletti 26:08
Yeah, you know, it’s funny, I had been talking with drawing the vision board and communicating that with our team members, you know, we really want to get to 200 locations over the next five years. And COVID-19 really solidified and codified that belief that we will get there and the next five years. And so we’re looking to have, you know, combination of acquisitions, mergers and organic growth, to help get to that number in the next five years, you know, we look at the future of the industry as one that that’s incredibly infused with growth because of the 5g and the applications that it will bring in. So we see a huge opportunity in that area. I want to get to that 200. And I think the ride in the thrill of just growing and going through and testing your limits as to how can really how far you could go is more exciting than that number. So

Ressa 27:08
awesome. Totally agree. So So 200 are you restricted by geography? How does it work with geographically? So yeah, I

Almaletti 27:19
mean, the Cricut the way that they really they look at it and say, if we have an operator that’s doing wonderful in this area, and we have, so we’ll give them that opportunity to grow in that area, if they do not want to grow, won’t find somebody else to but they’ll always give you the the first right to tell you, you know, this is we’re interested in this area, can you come and so we are in upstate New York, and we’re interested in growing in the northeast, if there’s opportunities on the West Coast, and there are nobody that really interested, it’s usually rare when you have somebody in the West Coast that’s growing, they’ll just grow where they’re planted. That’s really most how people operate. Normally, rarely do you see people just jumping from coast to coast, who have five locations on the East Coast? And they say, Well, I want to go in and have 10 locations on the west coast, but they’re very respectful of the, you know, they’re the geography of giving you the flexibility of say, Do you want to grow, we want to grow with you. If you’re interested, let’s do it.

Ressa 28:22
Got it. That is fascinating stuff. I want to I want to pivot. And I want to talk about the story of how one of these stores opened. And so take me there and ask what what, what location are we talking about?

Almaletti 28:39
So the first location that opened you know, a was interesting, it was how my father opened the location, we would go to a place that was called taken Sunday, and we loved having lunch in there. And so we would sit on the corner and look in through the window and then across the street there’s just just busy curd or like you know, wouldn’t it be nice? If that store had something in it? Well, like what, well, maybe we’ll just have cell phones cell phones are good. And that was really like Woodcote we’ll go and have lunch every day. What time this is an ace would Syracuse. Okay. So we would go and then we’d look cross and it just, and it just materialized just by looking at the traffic. And then then we’re like, okay, let’s just do it. And really within like a month, we looked at a couple of pictures on Craigslist and put together and that’s how it came about. It was just from having lunch, and a good old Italian restaurant place.

Ressa 29:45
So Wow. So let me unpack this a little bit. So you’re having lunch in a good old Italian restaurant. I love them. And you’re you’re saying Man, there needs to be something in that location across the street. It’s a busy intersection. shift. And you guys come across cell phones do you say cell phone store, when you say cell phone store where you just selling cell phones, where you going to sell the service where you’re gonna do

Almaletti 30:11
really just everything you know, and the old days, you just wanna you’ve repair phones, your cell phone, you’re just really you just had this thought of like, you know, this is a this product is in demand, and see what sticks. And so that’s really there was really not much of planning.

Ressa 30:31
totally get it. First one. So when you when you decide that though, like if I want to open up a cell phone store, I have to get in touch with like, AT and T or, or Verizon or something like that. So you decide you’re gonna do this, what do you have to do on that end to open that up? Who do you Who do you have to call?

Almaletti 30:49
So back in those days, it was really different. You just you, you the company, and this is you’re talking 15 years ago, the companies came to you because they wanted distribution. And as time grows, it goes on. And then they have distribution and fitting the rules of the game change into what you’re describing, you have to really have a portfolio and fill out an application and then contact whichever company that you think you want to align yourself with. But that was completely different. You know, we just opened up and we’re selling use phones, and we’re fixing phones. I wasn’t even selling any services at the time. And then over time companies, that one a distribution would say, Hey, you want to sell my product? And that’s how it worked back in the days. It’s completely different landscape today.

Ressa 31:37
So okay, and so got it. So you can it’s a little the back then it was just easier to open up. But you mentioned you were buying fixtures on Craigslist.

Almaletti 31:49
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You know, you you you really, I remember, my father was, they told him the rent was I remember, like something around 800 bucks. And he’s like, man, that’s expensive, you know, like, he’s like, that’s expensive. I got 700 bucks, or like 600. And then really, all that he had was $5,000. And he didn’t even have it, he had to borrow it from his nephew. So you really just you did the fixtures, you couldn’t spend more than, you know, 500 or 1000 bucks on the fixtures, the rest of it, you had to put some inventory. And you had to really spend every dime that you made on marketing and advertising. That’s how it

Ressa 32:29
worked. Wow. So you’re in you got $5,000 and you’re using that for inventory fixtures and month one rent? Yeah, and you go in there so you’re praying when you open the doors, right? Because you got to sell some stuff otherwise, month two is going to be a challenge. And and month one did I guess you guys you guys got hit it right on the inventory. What was your inventory? Where are you selling cases and doing repairs? And

Almaletti 33:02
yeah, yeah, we were selling cases we were selling used sounds you know, we were when we were putting the fixtures up, you know, it took us a couple of days but you could see people were like peeking in and they’re looking at what’s going in there or like we’re getting a cell phone store. They’re super excited. So that was like give us some like you know until this moment when I build out stores I would look when we’re building them out or when we’re doing the store build out I’d look and see people are they trying to peek in those have taken their interest and then just remember that moment of that first one store I mean there’s nothing really like those moments when you’re like first starting out and remembering that so that pique their interest of like man they know they’re gonna buy and I remember when we put the fixtures up on the first day we sold our phone you know that doesn’t really happen with our current stores that we open you don’t really sell on your first day when you put your fixtures in open up it usually takes a couple of weeks before people know and buy but it did and that was our lucky charm and you know every phone that we sold we would just buy another phone and then and then just try to just bootstrap yourself as much as you can you don’t pay yourself I didn’t get paid my brothers didn’t get paid working for this store. So my father got off easily

Ressa 34:18
and and yeah, I imagined so does that store still exist today?

Almaletti 34:24
Yes, I ended up so it was you know I we ended up just buying one of our brothers said You know, I’ll just want to have it I don’t want anything to do with your growth plan. I’ll just want to continue selling us phones and fixing phones. So he ended up just taking that and I moved on to just grow with cricket because I just wanted it’s much easier to scale of business when you have a product and a brand like that then try to scale a repair or used cell phone business. It’s much more complicated.

Ressa 34:57
Yeah, so there’s no so that’s not a cricket branded store today.

Almaletti 35:01
No, no, no.

Ressa 35:03
Got it. How long did it take you to realize you know what, after you working with your dad, you’re not making any money. You guys are month to month you’re trying to figure it out. When did you realize that? You know what? I’m gonna, I’m gonna go do this on my own.

Almaletti 35:20
Oh god, I mean, it took me so would the way we come from, you know this culture of you know is you have to take care, you have to pay your dues. If your dad, you know that brought you took us helped you to school and you have to pay your dues and your dues or you’re gonna go work for free and I’ll give you minimum wage until you just you’ll just get your food and gas. That’s it outside of that you can’t really and so you did that. We did that for about 10 years. So until like 2014 I believe 2015. Wow.

Ressa 35:53
You really bootstrapped it. You were grinding?

Almaletti 35:58
Yeah, no, it was it taught us some really great lessons about family values. And, and when you believe in something, you know, what does that look like and what you’re going to do with it?

Ressa 36:08
Totally. And so, the the landlord is that a local landlord, they’re not like a big REIT or a mall landlord or some some local landlord.

Almaletti 36:19
Yes. A local landlord. They have been incredible during Derry might have heard of them. So they were there. They were great. Absolutely.

Ressa 36:30
Awesome. Well, listen, that’s a really cool story and us. Last part of our show is retail wisdom. So I got three questions for you. So rapid fire, tell me when you’re ready. Yes, God. Best piece of commercial real estate advice.

Almaletti 36:52
Got so know your customers and where they go. You know, I remember one time I was at in Latham, New York, I wanted to open and a plaza. But I wasn’t sure if my customers were going in there. So I stood outside of Walmart and I had a sheet with zip code that was just literally asking, can you tell me where you’re from? can use your zip code. You’re just giving me your zip code, just mapping out where the zip codes of the choppers I ended up getting kicked out of Walmart for doing that. But it really just gave me an idea of like, are they shopping in there? Or not? You’re

Ressa 37:25
sure incredible. That’s amazing. I love that you did that. You’re amazing.

Almaletti 37:33
It is old school. Exactly. It was like it was a huge. What do you How are you going to know if they’re shopping in there or not? I ended up not going in there because it did not work out. It wasn’t what I was looking for. So it worked out. So

Ressa 37:46
know where your customers coming from? That’s great piece of advice. Are you familiar with geofencing and location analytics now?

Almaletti 37:52
Nowadays? It’s much easier.

Ressa 37:55
Okay, good. Good. Much easier now. All right. Second question. Extinct retailer, you wish would come back from the dead? Oh,

Almaletti 38:07
my God, I love me. Yeah. So I think to retailers, you know, I everybody hates hates blockbuster. Okay, but I just like there was something about going in there buying some candy, and having that CD, DVD and just going home and watching it. I am crazy to think that but I just I think that, you know, they failed to to update their business. But there’s just something about going in there that just soak. Okay, the experience was was interesting. Speaking of

Ressa 38:35
buffet, I normally don’t pivot out of retail wisdom. But I’m gonna ask the question, Where does the Where does your business converge with online in the future?

Almaletti 38:47
You know, that’s a great question. And it’s a question that we’re tackling right now. So the way that I see our business model converging with online is that I truly don’t think that Amazon will ever replace us in our business model, because people want to feel their cell phone and they want it now, where I really think that us as cell phone retailers would have to adapt is to create a business model where you are delivering the same day to the customer. So one of the things that we’re working on right now is to put in build a platform where the customer could go online, submit their, their, their, their, their, their requested order. And we’re saying if you are within our locations within 20 miles, and you submit that order within 4pm, we’re going to deliver it to your house the same day. So that’s really it. So if you can, if you can put a hybrid between your platform, your online platform, and your brick and mortar and then you can merge them and get there with speed, which is what I think people need with their phone right now. If you really chop on Amazon and COVID-19 some stuff we’re taking three or four weeks, people you can ship a phone and give then the second day or two or 448 hours, that’s one hour too long for people when it comes to our phones, I don’t really think that will change. But that’s really where I feel that we would couple our business model with the online. And that’s what COVID-19 has forced us to really just expedite the things that we were putting off in the past you have to it’s really expediting are the evolution of the business. Wow,

Ressa 40:23
that’s great perspective. All right, last question. This one’s gonna be a tough one. But I had a look. Okay. So I’m going summers come in. And my in laws have a place down in the New Jersey shore, and where I’m going to be working from home, but working there next week. So my there’s a pool, and my family will be outside. I have two little kids. We’re going to and my kids need sunscreen. So the sunscreen of choice that we have is the Blue Lizard Australian organic sunscreen. It is a bottle it’s five fluid ounces. I’m on right now. What does the Blue Lizard sunscreen retails for? five ounce

Almaletti 41:15
ba God ESPN seven 799

Ressa 41:20
This will blow your hair back. It’s 1498

Almaletti 41:23
Oh my god, it’s too expensive

Ressa 41:29
to play. So like listen to NAS this was this was great. Really appreciate it. I’m glad we got to see each other in person and connect

Almaletti 41:37
Yeah, to me.

Ressa 41:42
Thank you for listening to retail told. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retail so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode.

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