An abundance of broken cellphones in Richmond has helped plant the seed for a local shop to expand in multiple directions.
Fruit Fixed, a locally born smartphone and electronics repair chain with four retail locations in Carytown, Short Pump, Colonial Heights and Midlothian, is preparing to open a new store in Charlottesville. It’s the 4-year-old company’s first time venturing outside its home region.
The move comes just months after Fruit Fixed acquired the assets of Glass Smith, an on-demand mobile electronics repair company that launched in Richmond in 2016.
Fruit Fixed was founded in 2014 by Richmond native Justin Carroll, who said he got the idea for the company after breaking and subsequently fixing his own phone while a senior at East Carolina University.
“I was self-taught,” Carroll said.
By graduation, he didn’t have a job lined up and fixed friends’ and family members’ busted phones on the side. A few years later he decided to open the first Fruit Fixed in Carytown.
The cellphone repair market was growing more crowded at the time, but Carroll said Fruit Fixed was able to grow by staying small and focusing on Carytown.
“One thing that we did in the beginning – and it doesn’t sound unique now – was realizing how important (online) reviews are for a business,” he said.
“Attention to detail and being serious about the job, those are some things the industry does pretty poorly … We’re not unique in a macro sense, but one of the things I was fortunate with was I figured out a way to perfect the first store, it gave us a good launchpad.”
Through 2016 and 2017, Fruit Fixed opened stores throughout the region, with its Charlottesville store set to open in the next month or so. Alex Wotring of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer was its broker for that deal.
The company, which was self-funded, now has 16 employees across its stores.
Carroll said the new Glass Smith side of the business soon will take on the Fruit Fixed name, while using the same general concept that Glass Smith created: an Uber-like online tool that dispatches repair calls to technicians, who fix devices onsite.
“I approached them, it all came together pretty quickly,” Carroll said of the acquisition deal. “Essentially we bought their application … The real value there was the software itself.”
Beyond going mobile and into Charlottesville, Carroll said he’s looking to continue expanding, including potentially back to where it all started: his alma mater in Greenville, North Carolina.
“It’s all coming full circle,” he joked.