Contacts: Jim King, Co-owner of Lakeshore Appliance, Ashland, Wis.
Ashland, Wisconsin is the sort of place where a rumor can start on one side of town in the morning and end up a completely different tale on the the other side of town by the afternoon. “You can’t get away with nothin’ here,” says retailer Jim King, co-owner with his cousin Pat of Lakeshore Appliance. King says lately, talk has been of the economic hit this town of 8500 has taken since one of its big industries, winter recreation, was crippled by the lack of snow this year.
“It’s tough to be in business when you are expecting to sell things to people visiting for skiing and snowmobiling. Everyone is trying to supplement their income.” Lucky for King, Lakeshore Appliance has recently found a branch of electronics retail that has become suprisingly lucrative: cell phone sales.
“We sell about 500 phones a year. I’d say about 35-40% of our business right now is cell phones,” says King, who partners with mobile carrier Cellular One. He says the supplemental business has helped tie them over in lean times when appliances don’t move. “The hard part of retail in a remote area is that there’s nobody close enough to do any servicing on your stuff. Anything that goes wrong, it kills your profit. But we’re willing to try anything, and the cell phone business is phenomenal for us.”