Brothers Build Thriving Smartphone Repair Business During College

By JUAN RODRIGUEZ

KENNESAW, Ga. – Two brothers, both former Kennesaw State University students, have grown their smartphone repair business from a single store in Smryna to now three locations in the metro Atlanta area.

Founded by its CEO Shahzad Pirani in 2011, who was later joined by his brother Sal Pirani, the COO, iRepairIt is a retail store where you can get your smartphone, tablet or laptop fixed. It provides repair services to both consumers and businesses.

Shahzad Pirani got the idea for his business when he was working his way through college at a cellphone accessory store at a mall. While working at the store he noticed that many customers wanted to get their screens fixed but were unable to find a business that did it.

After realizing that there was a high demand for screen repairs but no one to fix them, he decided that it was the right time to start his business. At first there was no actual store. It was him by himself offering his repair services on Craigslist and through word-of-mouth and going to his customers directly.

With so much time being consumed by his growing business and his grades starting to slip, Pirani decided that it was best to leave Kennesaw State and focus on his company.

“I tried to go to school but I would skip my classes, not show up, not do my homework. I lost my HOPE scholarship and my grades were going down,” he said. “I decided to not go to school so if I decide to go back I don’t make a bad impression and still have the option to go back.”

With no competitors to help drive business and with Smyrna being relatively quiet at the time, he took the risk of opening his first physical iRepairIt store opened in 2014. Rather than looking for investors or taking out loans, Pirani was able to open his store with the money that he had saved up from fixing phones for the past three years.

Once the physical store began to pick up, Pirani asked his brother Sal Pirani to join him. Much like his brother, Sal Pirani was also a student at Kennesaw State when he began working with iRepairIt. He was brought in to take care of inventory, bringing down the cost of parts as much as possible and ordering parts that are both top quality and cost efficient.

“I make sure that we order the highest quality parts from our suppliers and we are paying more for these parts, but in return we are having less issues and defect rates,” Sal Pirani said.

The risk of opening up a store in the area paid off, and within two years after opening up their first store they were able to open two more, one in Midtown and the other in Buckhead.

With two new stores, Sal Pirani’s job entailed more. Along with his previous duties, which he now had to do for all three stores, he was also put in charge of making sure that all the stores are running well and that all the employees are doing their job the right way. With the added work, he too decided to leave school in order to devote all his time and energy to the company.

Although he has had success with opening up new stores, Shahzad Pirani does not see himself opening up any more stores in the future. Phone companies have begun to make the screens on their smartphones and tablets stronger and harder to fix. This poses a problem for the Pirani brothers whose company’s main source of revenue is fixing those devices.

They are aware that smartphone repairs will no longer be a lucrative business in the near future, but they are prepared for this. The two brothers also own their own real estate company, were they are 50/50 partners.

“We just started investing into homes and renting them out to college grads and other students, so were trying to get more into that and focus on the Smyrna area,” Shahzad Pirani said. “Everyone wants stable income and this is what I believe is the only stable income that exists.”

With the three rental homes that they currently have, they are looking forward to continuing and growing their real estate business in Smyrna. The addition of the new Braves stadium, The Battery complex next to the stadium and an influx of other business moving to Smyrna, Shahzad and Sal Pirani are excited about their future.

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Volunteers are King at Local Thrift Store

By THOMAS PETROCCIONE

PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. — The Clothes Less Traveled thrift store seeks to provide a place where people can buy previously used household items and clothing so proceeds can go to various local charities and provide grants for nonprofit organizations.

This mission, however, could never be achieved without the dedication and heart of its many volunteers.

“Since we are 25,000 square feet, our overhead would be extremely high without our volunteers,” said Ann Walker, volunteer coordinator for Clothes Less Traveled.

“Our costs are kept way down so we are able to give a lot of money to other organizations that are also nonprofit.”

The store has 150 scheduled volunteers and an additional 85 pop-in helpers. There are also several hundred students who have volunteered over the years to earn Beta Club hours or do service projects for school credit. A commitment of three and a half hours per month is requested of scheduled helpers but many work as many as 20 hours per week, Walker said.

“I was an empty nester and looking for something to fill my days,” said Jane Higgins, a current volunteer. “My friend asked me to come along and help volunteer and I really enjoyed it.”

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Jane Higgins volunteering at Clothes Less Traveled. Photo by Thomas Petroccione

Higgins works in the fitting rooms, but there are many activities that the volunteers can participate in. There is a group that tests donated appliances to see if they can fix them. Some sort through the donated books and clothing and others price furniture or work as cashiers. Not all the volunteers work in the store in Peachtree City. Some volunteers organize clothing or furniture drives. Others assist with a special event or project.

It is not all work and no play at Clothes Less Traveled. The volunteer break room is always stocked with snacks and drinks. Often there is a surprise, such as TCBY frozen yogurt or a sheet cake. A large sign, “We love our volunteers” is on the bulletin board. The atmosphere among the volunteers is inviting and friendly.

“It has been a wonderful place to work, wonderful people and great perks,” said Higgins. “I definitely plan to continue working here for a long time.”

The volunteers enjoy monthly and birthday coupons for store credit. The Clothes Less Traveled holds an annual appreciation dinner for its volunteers. Awards including the “Above and Beyond Recognition Award” are given at the event. The winner of this honor gets to name the charity (among a list of local organizations) that will receive $2,000 from the Clothes Less Traveled. High school student volunteers are eligible for merit-based college scholarships. Clothes Less Traveled annually grants up to $25,000 in scholarships.

To volunteer, click here. Walker, the volunteer coordinator, said she contacts everyone who fills out the volunteer form and schedules them for an orientation.

“I could never even give you a correct adjective to describe how grateful I am for them,” said Walker. “They are amazing, hard-working, great men, women and families.”

Health Stores in Kennesaw

Local Health Store Treats Sickness Naturally

By CRAIG BARRY

KENNESAW, Ga. — Over the years, stores like GNC, Vitamin World, and The Vitamin Shoppe have become increasingly popular. These are health friendly stores where a person can find practically any vitamin, supplement, protein, fitness aid, digestion, or weight control related product.

Luckily, Kennesaw has enjoyed the benefit of having these stores locally, but what store is the best option for each consumer trying to get fit? Well, that can depend the needs and preferences, and each one may meet them to a different standard. If you don’t know what you’re doing, this can be a trial and error process.

You do not have to be a ‘health nut’ to shop at one of these stores either. People of all shapes, sizes, and colors, come here to find out about health and take care of their bodies.

“I have all kinds of customers walk in here for so many different reasons,” said Fassel Abrham, employee at The Vitamin Shoppe. “There is no particular age for people shopping, I get just as many senior citizens in here looking for things to help their skin as I do teenagers with acne problems, and often times I recommend the same product.”

So basically, it really depends on what you’re looking for in a health store: price, quantity, or customer service.

GNC

Stores like GNC, Vitamin World, and The Vitamin Shoppe have any health product you could be searching for. GNC is the biggest chain in Georgia, with over 80 locations statewide, and three in Kennesaw: one on Wade Green Road northwest, one on Cobb Parkway north, and one on Ernest W. Barrett Parkway.

To an experienced health store shopper, or a ‘health nut’, the GNC on Barrett Parkway would be considered the Wal-Mart of health stores. To shop here is to risk being labeled a mainstream-consumer, or brand-name buyer. That being said, it does probably provide the most consistently broad variety of choices in products, and perhaps the most convenient shopping experience for the consumer looking for a ‘one-stop-shop’ type of vitamin store.

Products

GNC carries vitamin, A through Z, multi-vitamins for men and women, minerals, fish oil, antioxidants, and sexual health products, plus protein supplements, weight control pills, personal care lotions and creams, food and drinks. According to employee Thomas Threadgill, the vitamins, various supplements, and protein and fitness products are typically their most popular items.

While this chain does excel in its variety and stock availability, it does have a few minor set-backs native to corporate-owned mega chain stores. This particular GNC located on Barrett Parkway in the Towne Center Mall at Cobb, is rather crowded upon entry. The abundance of products for sale here actually over-crowd the aisles you walk through while you shop.

For someone who is new to this field, the variety can be slightly overwhelming. Vitamins, supplements and weight control pills wait in ambush everywhere you turn, with endless disclaimers and warnings of caution hidden in all the fine print, and side-effects as far as the eye can see. Some of the side effects are actually worse than what the pill was intended for in the first place.

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This GNC is located inside Town Center at Cobb. Photo by Craig Barry

Customer Service

If you do not know what you are doing when it comes to this kind of stuff, you will need to seek advice from one of the employees working there. Unfortunately, GNC does not contain the most knowledgeable ‘professionals’ in the field. Mostly young people and amateur trainers work here.

Even employee Threadgill, admits, “This is kind of the type of place someone goes to be hired if they’re in college and are interested in becoming a nutritionist, or maybe a personal trainer, and sometimes just the stereotypical muscle-head who does this as a side obsession.”

However, he said, “Occasionally you’ll get someone who is recently graduated and is starting out as a trainer, so they will have a little bit of experience, but that’s usually as far as it goes.”

Prices and Website

GNC’s prices are generally fair, compared to other health stores in the area. This is one of the benefits of being a larger corporate-owned chain. If you want to look at its product prices before going to the store, you can check them out here. The website is thorough, simple to use, and contains every product you would find at any locations. If you want to order offline instead, you have that option as well.

Vitamin World

Vitamin World is also a corporate-owned company, with a branch in the Town Center Mall at Cobb on Barrett Parkway also. It carries everything GNC does, as listed above, in addition to pet products.

The biggest difference between these two stores would be the experience for the shopper. While this is a big company like GNC, the employees at this location offer a much personable environment for the newer, less experienced, vitamin store consumer. For the shyer shopper, who is seeking guidance to become more health conscious, this would be the preferred choice.

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Vitamin Word located inside Town Center at Cobb shopping mall. Photo by Craig Barry

Customer Services

“Customer service is my number one priority,” said Vitamin World employee Jordan Brown.

Customers may need help with a health concern that is a sensitive issue for them, and it can be hard to talk about. So when customers walk in to Vitamin World, Brown wants them to look at this as “a friendly environment where people want to help people, not as a place where we just want to sell you something for money.”

“It’s not uncommon that GNC will send a customer over to me, just because they know we are a little bit more knowledgeable when it comes to this stuff,” Brown said.

Prices and Website

Vitamin World also has a website, at Vitaminworld.com. Here you can find out more about their products and prices without driving to their location. Generally, its prices are equal or similar to GNC’s, and they are almost just as well equipped. Although, you can only view the general price on its website; the store offers a customer rewards card discount that works similar to a Kroger or CVS card, and is free of charge. This card will get you a discount on many products, and access to some great sales, but you can only see the member’s price inside the stores.

The Vitamin Shoppe

Last, and quite possibly the least, would be the Vitamin Shoppe, located on Ernest W. Barrett Parkway. This vitamin store, also corporate-owned, is almost a combination of Vitamin World and GNC.

Customer Service

While this store does give off a mom and pop vibe, unfortunately this is not the case. It too has a fully stocked arsenal of health products just like its competitors, but it seems like it is guarded by a hungry salesman more than it is accompanied by a helpful nutritionist. The sales staff are fairly knowledgeable in their respective field of health fitness, but not overly friendly.

Prices and Website

The prices remain consistent with its competitors, and its website, is easy to use. Here you also can research the products and prices at home, if you do not want to rely on the customer service, which would not be advised.

Local Health Store Treats Sickness Naturally

By Christobel Monago

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Certified natural-health practitioners provide potential treatments for common maladies while traditional health care professionals recommend consulting a doctor before using any un-prescribed treatment.

Amruth Ayurveda is a natural health center in Alpharetta that claims to treat everyday problems and diseases naturally. With treatments based on traditional ayurvedic methods that originated in India over two thousand years ago, it advocates a change in diet, certain herbs and oils as well as other methods as treatment.

While patients may be looking for a fresh approach to health care, Dr. Esther Anosike, a clinical pharmacist, recommends that any sort of treatment be approved by a certified health care provider to ensure safety.

Amruth Ayurveda offers several physical treatments as well as consultations regarding diet and ayurvedic body types for their customers. Usha Pappu, a certified ayurvedic practitioner and an employee at the facility, said that they concentrate on the main forces of nature.

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An array of health products located at Amruth Ayurveda. Photo by Christobel Monago

“There are three main forces we always believe play a part in life,” she said. “It is all based on vata, pitta, and kapha. Everyone has different combinations. Once you know your body composition, which type you fall into, we will know the diet. Once you know your type, then you go with whatever is friendly to you.”

The different body types have different diets and sleep schedules. Pappu said that balance is the goal of ayurvedic treatment.

“According to ayurvedism, the healthy person should eat well, should sleep well, should eliminate well,” she said. “All the sensory organs, tissues, and digestive system should be in balance.”

The shop opened in December 2016 and Pappu studied for two years to get her certification. She said this has not always been a requirement.

“The history is passed from teacher to student. Initially, there was no official system, but we had to mix with modern technology.”

Amruth Ayurveda sells different herb blends and oils with some of them in the form of soaps, shampoos and lotions for topical applications. It sources its herb selection from American as well as Indian companies and brands such as Mountain Rose Herbs, which specializes in sustainable and organic certified herbs tinctures, and oils.

While natural health solutions may provide help for patients, Anosike, the pharmacist, highlights risks associated with natural treatment

“You should always consult your doctor or pharmacist before you take any medication. Prescribed or OTC (over the counter),” she said. “You want to know what you’re taking. You want to make sure that there won’t be any interactions with any drugs you’re already taking and with the food you eat.”

With natural treatments getting more mainstream and widely sought after, vitamin and natural health food shops are popping up everywhere. It provides more options for affordable and do-it-yourself health care which has its pros as well as its cons. There are also limits to natural health care as very few of them claim to cure juggernaut disease like AIDS or cancer.

Though there are limits, consumers have more choices now than ever before. It is their responsibility to know which choice to make regarding their health.

Beer’s Roots

When beer changed in Georgia

By KEVIN ENNERS

MARIETTA, Ga. – Since its humble beginning, beer has evolved from ale to lager to specialty brew, spawning the explosion of the craft beer industry.

American history is brimming with tales of beer and its place in the growth of a nation. Journals found on the Mayflower indicate the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock because they were out of beer and needed to make more.

The first permanent structure to be built in the new world was a brewery and Americans have been brewing beer ever since — even during Prohibition.

 

Georgia’s Hoppy History

Georgia’s brewing history began in 1738, six years after the state became the last of the 13 colonies. Originally, the Peach State was a colony of debtors. Yup, debtors. James Oglethorpe, a British general and member of Parliament, had a good friend who died of smallpox in a debtor’s prison in England. After the Prison Reform Act of 1729, spearheaded by Oglethorpe, many debtors were released from prison adding to the unemployed throngs in England.

Oglethorpe approached King George II with a proposal to establish a colony for debtors between the Spanish in Florida and the English in South Carolina. In his proposal, Oglethorpe explained that debtors would work off their debts, the unemployed would have work and there would be a military buffer between Florida and South Carolina. The king granted permission.

A major hurdle in the new colony of Georgia was hydration. Initially, there was a ban on alcohol (as well as gambling, slavery, lawyers and Catholics) so the only source of hydration was the water supply. Colonists began dying of dysentery. While Oglethorpe left for England to ask the king’s permission to change the “no alcohol” rule, Major William Horton took control of the helm and eliminated the ban after a bloodless revolution by the colonists.

When Oglethorpe returned, he was furious but realized no one was dying. For saving the lives of those remaining, Horton was lauded a hero and given control of Jekyll Island. Horton established a farm that grew crops to supply the troops at Fort Frederica. Two of his crops were barley and hops – the key ingredients in beer making.

In 1738, Horton founded the South’s first brewery on Jekyll Island. Thus, beer became integrated into the colonial way of life in Georgia.

Prohibition

With the advent of commercial refrigeration in 1860, automatic bottling, pasteurization in 1876 and railroad distribution, the modern era of brewing began. In the latter part of the 19th century, brewing was a big business. Beer surpassed distilled spirits in 1890 and became the main source of alcoholic beverage in America.

The U.S. beer industry continued to grow into thousands of breweries until Prohibition in 1920. The 18th Amendment prohibited the making, transporting, and selling of alcoholic beverages. Advocates believed that alcohol was harmful and caused many social problems including crime and corruption. Breweries either closed their doors, converted to soft drink factories or turned their manufacturing process to malt extract, advertising it as a product for “bread making”. The real reason people bought it, though, was to make their own beer known as homebrew.

In 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition. After 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours, and 32 minutes, Prohibition ended with Franklin Delano Roosevelt commenting, “What America needs now is a drink.”

Birth of Craft Beer

 By the late 1970s, marketing campaigns had changed America’s beer preference to light, low-calorie lager beers. The traditions and styles brought over by immigrants from around the world were disappearing. Enter homebrewing.

The homebrewing hobby took off because it was the only way a person in the United States could experience the beer traditions and styles of different countries.

“I think it (craft beer) became popular because people were sick of the same five choices for decades and decades,” said Zack Mulazzi at Total Wine & More in Kennesaw. “After the big uprising of craft beer in the mid- to late-‘90s, it became a fight to see who could brew the best tasting beer.”

From these roots sprouted the craft brewing industry.

By definition, an American craft brewer is small, independent and innovative. Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients as well as non-traditional ingredients allowing each brewer to put their own twist and signature spin on their product.

Craft Brewing in Georgia

 

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Georgia’s craft beer takes up four sections at Total Wine & More. Photo by Claudette Enners
Georgia’s first craft brewer, Red Brick Brewing, was founded in 1993. Originally called Atlanta Brewing Co., its trademark ale was going to be named after the long-time brew master John J. Bips. Instead, the brewery elected to use its own name for Red Brick Ale in 2010.

The Red Brick name was derived from a speech given by Atlanta’s mayor in the disastrous wake of General Sherman’s march through Atlanta, stating the city would be rebuilt “one red brick at a time.”

Today, the craft beer industry is thriving. Statistics gathered by the Brewers Association indicate that in 2016 there were a total of 5,301 U.S. breweries, of which 5,234 are categorized as craft breweries. Craft breweries include regional craft breweries, microbreweries and brew pubs. Georgia has a total of 58 craft beer breweries.

Restaurants statewide offer local and national craft beers. Moxie Burger, with three locations in northwest Georgia, is one of them. Co-founder Jordan Pearl believes the industry is very competitive based on the variety of craft beers available.

“I think people like to drink and people like new things,” said Pearl. “This relatively new market has a cult following because there is constant change and improvement in the quality and selection available.

“People like to boast that they have had something that their peers have not. A lot of the seasonal beers are made in small batches that are hard to get. This drives demand and word of mouth marketing. Although that specific beer isn’t always available, the brewery is.”

Economic Impact

As of 2016, Georgia’s craft breweries produced 392,000 barrels of beer contributing to positive economic growth in the state. Overall figures from 2014 indicate small, independent craft brewers contributed $55.7 billion to the U.S. economy.

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The original Moxie Burger is at Paper Mill Village in East Cobb. Photo by Claudette Enners
Many factors contribute to calculating economic impact. The most obvious is the direct impact craft brewers have on employment but indirect impacts are included in the calculations. Some examples include: suppliers who provide raw materials and equipment to make beer, construction companies who build the facilities, distributors and wholesalers who provide their services, as well as indirect sales on food and merchandise in restaurants and brew pubs.

The bottom line is more employment means more disposable income which means more spending which positively impacts economic growth.

In his article, How Beer Single-Handedly Saved the State of Georgia, Michael Lundmark concluded that because beer saved Georgia (referencing the hydration dilemma colonists faced) we should honor Georgia’s history with a commitment to consuming beer for our health. With the majority of Americans living within 10 miles of a brewery, that shouldn’t be too hard.