Verizon moves into Trail’s

Published 9:40 am Monday, February 22, 2010

Truckers have a hard time pulling their big rigs into parking lots at strip malls to get their cell phones serviced, plus they often don’t have the time. As a result, Verizon Wireless has been getting its products into truck stops.

That’s why there is a new Verizon Wireless dealer occupying 96 square feet of space in the middle of Trail’s Travel Center.

“Truckers are some of the biggest cell phone and cell data users out there,” said Ryan Hanson, one of the owners of the kiosk.

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With experience opening and operating cell-phone stores across the Midwest for Shakopee-based Shock City Cellular, Hanson had a shot at owning a location and took it. He owns the Verizon kiosk at Trail’s with partners Chad Capp and Nate Puccini. Their company is called Echo Reach, paying rent to Trail’s, with Shock City providing the franchise model.

He said Verizon has urged its retailers to locate at truck stops. He said AT&T and Sprint were penalizing truckers for roaming too much.

“We are getting those customers looking to switch,” Hanson said.

While business travelers are a prime customer, he also is marketing to the Albert Lea area. He said customers at cell phone stores are made to wait too long. He said he wants to reduce wait times and said, when they do wait, Trail’s offers more to do than just wander a little store. They can dine, play arcade games, watch TV, shop and other activities. He said he is willing to go to homes and businesses if necessary to service customers.

“I’ve cut my teeth opening a lot of these businesses, and now, with my partners, we’re going to be here,” Hanson said.

The kiosk opened Dec. 1.

Hanson said he couldn’t ask for a better location to find customers.

“Our influence is felt all over the place. Today I’ll sign up a customer from Seattle, and tomorrow I’ll sign up a customer from Florida.”

And he said he has “really great employees.”

Hanson presently lives in Minneapolis but said he plans to move to Albert Lea.

Rocky Trail, the majority owner of Trail’s Travel Center, said the Travel Center of America chain has been placing Verizon kiosks in locations across the country with success.

He said truckers can get their phone serviced when they stop for gas or to eat or other reasons.

Trail said the dealer replaces general merchandise.

“It was a bit open there anyway,” he said.

He said Trail’s Travel Center always is looking at options to serve customers.

There are three kinds of Verizon dealers: stores owned by Verizon itself, national chains such as Best Buy and Walmart, and the franchise retailers, termed “premium retailers,” Hanson said.

He said the premium retailers will debut the new Motorola Devour smartphone starting Thursday.

The Verizon kiosk at Trail’s is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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