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Device Doctors

Broken gadgets drive Rapid Repair’s thriving business

Many people discover Rapid Repair exactly the way owner and operator Ben Levy started the company — by dropping a new iPod.

The reason Levy now owns a successful, 10-year-old iPod, iPad, iPhone and Zunes repair, resale and refurbishment shop is because he decided to pursue the option of fixing his own iPod to a degree most people wouldn’t consider.

“I was pretty upset about it,” he recalls. “So I decided to go online and see if anyone else had these problems. Turns out, a ton of people have the same problem, so I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I should look into finding out where I can buy these parts or I should just buy broken units and maybe I can piece mine back together.’”

After Levy began to buy parts and broken iPods, he collected more than enough parts to fix his own iPod, so he repaired the other broken iPods he’d accrued and resold them. Along the way, he and partner Aaron Vronko created a business called iPod Mods and launched a website to solicit parts and broken devices and sell the refurbished products.

“Then we were contacted by a few companies that deal with retail returns from big companies like Best Buy and Walmart,” he says. “Basically they jump-started our business. There weren’t a lot of companies back then that were handling repairs like there are today so they’d send us huge batches of these iPods and we’d fix them up.”

Not only did iPod Mods get a substantial amount of startup business from retail return companies, it also got the added bonus of being able to keep the extra parts left over from the repairs. Over time, Levy’s company kept collecting its own stores of parts and devices and growing out of its space. The company moved from Levy’s apartment to a small storefront, and then to its current location, at 2328 Winters Drive in Portage, about five years ago. Levy says business has been going great and growing steadily.

iPod Mods changed its name to Rapid Repair in 2007, and Rapid Repair branched out from repairing iPods to fixing iPhones, iPads and Zunes players. Rapid Repair also will take special orders on Samsung phones and other expensive personal-use devices. As technology advances, Levy and his team — eight full-time and two part-time employees — stay updated on how to fix and refurbish various devices.

Because Rapid Repair started as one of the few companies in the U.S. that sold parts and offered mail-in repair for iOS devices, it had a steady corner on the market and conducted most of its business online. That situation is starting to change, though.

“Seventy-five to 80 percent of the business still rolls in online from mail-order repairs,” Levy says, “but now business is more local, in terms of iPhones and iPads, because people can’t live without them for 24 hours. Everything is on them. They are their life.”

That dependency on electronic devices is also spurring growth in another facet of Rapid Repair’s business — sales of do-it-yourself repair kits.

“You can call us the NAPA of iOS device parts,” Levy says. “We have everything. If you need any particular part, we have it available on our website. And there’s a plethora of information available that you can use to just open these devices up yourself and fix them. Our demographic is anywhere from 18- to 35-year-old people who grew up with this technology and feel comfortable doing this.”

Levy says one reason for Rapid Repair’s continuing success is its customer service. Almost all online reviews of the business are glowing.

Rapid Repair’s senior technician Ben Vronko says the reviews are good because everyone who works at Rapid Repair is focused on customer service.

“We’ve kind of stuck to the things we’ve done well,” Ben Vronko says, “and we’ve made sure we’re consistently stocking needed parts and supplies, and we stand up to all of our repairs. We’ve built a reputation around town and on the Internet, so people trust us.”

Customer service is stitched into Rapid Repair, says Vronko, because the staff of eight full-time and two part-time employees operate in a “family and friend atmosphere” of people who share a common passion for seeing how gadgets work and then figuring out how to fix them when they don’t. It’s why Vronko works at Rapid Repair in the first place.

“I like working here because of the fact that we’re able to help customers out with cost-efficient repairs,” he says. “I love working with customers and helping them figure out how to fix their devices.”

As Rapid Repair continues to grow and Levy looks to the future, he anticipates a changing market and is already beginning to shift his business strategy to accommodate it. Rapid Repair has started to sell wholesale parts to other small repair businesses around the country, and the business recently partnered with a company fixing broken iPads used in classrooms.

Levy wants to continue to be a part of the Kalamazoo and Portage community as well. As a Kalamazoo native, he feels a strong connection to the area.

“I like the fact that I’m the owner and operator of a business here, and I like to be a part of the community, whether it’s sponsoring Little League teams or funding other events or programs for high schools,” he says. “It makes me feel good to be a part of the community out here, and I’m trying to better the area.”

Tiffany Fitzgerald

As Encore’s staff writer, Tiffany writes — a lot. She is responsible for our Upfront, Savor, Enterprise and Good Works features every month, as well as other stories in the arts. If that wasn’t enough, she is also the editor of FYI, our new family magazine that debuted last month. When we aren’t working her to death, she hangs out with her husband and two sons and dreams of having the time to complete Pinterest-worthy projects.

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