As consumer goods prices have come down over time, you don't see many television repair shops, tailors and cobblers anymore.
In fact, there are just a fraction of the 100,000 shoe repair shops that operated in the United States back in the 1930s. People now simply replace whatever's broken.
Except for their smartphones. The phones people obsessively use throughout the day and have grown dependent on in the ever-elusive quest for likes and shares can run over $1,000, and can run into all sorts of problems, such as cracked screens, broken buttons and water damage.
Phone repair businesses have been opening left and right in the Region, a bright spot in the local retail sector.
"We are seeing a lot of them start to pop up," said Aaron McDermott, president of Schererville-based Latitude Commercial. "Given the investment people are making into their phones nowadays, I can see it continuing. Before it was just your local type of company that did it. Now they have entire franchises dedicated to the repairs."
McDermott mentioned CPR (Cell Phone Repair), uBreakiFix and Batteries Plus as entrants into the market.
A study by Allstate subsidiary SquareTrade found smartphone repair had ballooned into a $3.4 million business nationwide. People cracked more than 50 million smartphone screens across America last year alone.
The growing number of phone repair shops in Northwest Indiana include CPR in Merrillville, Munster Wireless Repair, NWI Cell Phone Repair in Highland, Repair Plus in Hammond, Unique Geek in Valparaiso, Fix My Fone in Michigan City and ifixUP Phone, Tablet & Computer Repair in LaPorte.
uBreakiFix, a national chain that has more than 460 retail stores across North America, recently has opened storefronts in Crown Point, Highland, Michigan City, and Portage. Local uBreakiFix franchisees Angelo and Alexandra Giannakopoulos plan to open more stores this year.
“We love being able to bring uBreakiFix to new communities because we truly believe in the mission of this company," Angelo Giannakopoulos said.
In recent years, Wisconsin-based Batteries Plus has opened locations in Schererville, Merrillville, Valparaiso, Michigan City and Homewood. In addition to offering specialty batteries most big-box stores don't carry, it employs technicians who fix cameras, charge ports, speakers, headphone jacks and other problems with smartphones and tablets.
It's not all national chains — there are also some homegrown ones.
The local chain We Fix Phones and Tablets just opened a new store at 10649 Broadway in Crown Point. It also has locations in Valparaiso and Frankfort, Palos Park, Darien and Burbank in Illinois.
Owner Mike Mahmoud said he's looking to add more stores in Portage and Schererville.
"We started off in 2014 and now have half a dozen locations," he said. "Long-term, we'd like to have 20 to 30 locations in Indiana and Illinois."
We Fix Phones and Tablets repairs water damage, broken screens, charging cord issues and sundry other maladies to smartphones, as well as problems with tablets, computers, and video game consoles.
"We fix anything and everything," he said. "A cell phone might cost $1,500 to purchase. If you break the screen of your iPhone, many would rather pay $250 to get it fixed than $1,500 to get a new phone."