After working in IT locally for more than a decade, Larry Rothzeid decided to turn his passion for technology into a business of his own.
Rothzeid is the owner and founder of The Mac Corner, a local company that exclusively repairs, refurbishes and sells used Apple products. Unlike most of his competition, however, Rothzeid is not an Apple-authorized partner — a detail, he said, that usually works to his advantage.
Rothzeid, a native of Long Island, N.Y., was transferred to Colorado Springs from Arizona, where he had been working for FedEx as a software developer.
During his 12 years with the company locally, Rothzeid would fix broken Apple computers and sell them via Craigslist.
“I’d give [the buyer] a warranty with my cell number,” Rothzeid recalls.
He then found a PC shop in Monument that would sell his Macs on consignment.
“I figured it was a good way to get the word out, and we worked well together because the owner hated Macs and I didn’t care for Windows,” Rothzeid said. “The Mac Corner name came from his shop. I had a little corner of his store.”
In 2013, Rothzeid left FedEx to open his own establishment at Murray and Fountain boulevards and, by the end of the year, he moved again to his current location on Janitell Road. Nine months later, Rothzeid christened a second shop in Monument.
While many shops offering repairs on Apple products are certified Apple partners, Rothzeid said his shops are totally independent.
“We’re getting more foot traffic all the time as word spreads that we’re an alternative to an Apple store,” he said. “We’re not associated with Apple and we make that very clear to customers. For instance, we don’t handle Apple warranty work.”
“Apple has very stringent rules to be a certified partner and I don’t think it’s beneficial to me to do it,” he added. “We’re the only one I know of in town that isn’t affiliated with Apple but focuses exclusively on Apple.”
Most customers who need repairs are dealing with cracked screens or damaged hard drives and have an expired warranty or don’t want to wait for a certified Apple partner to make the repairs.
“The advantages are that I don’t have to adhere to all of Apple’s strict rules. For instance, there’s a model of MacBook before they took out the CD drive — you could technically upgrade it to 16 gigs of RAM. If you’re an Apple partner, you’re not allowed to, but it could give you a huge benefit,” he said. “Apple also doesn’t let partners repair iPhones. They have to be sent to Apple.
“From my perspective, that isn’t good customer service. Customers can’t be without their phones. Imagine if someone asked for your phone and said they’d give it back to you in a week.”
Rothzeid said his goal is to put products together exactly the way they come in.
“If someone opened the computer up at the Mac store in Briargate, I don’t want them to ever know it was touched,” he said. “It’s my goal to make it look perfect. So many people take shortcuts and it irritates me.”
Rothzeid said his ability to turn around repairs quickly is one of the biggest advantages to remaining independent.
“If someone wants to replace a hard drive, it’s usually one day here. Affiliates are often 48 hours, if not longer,” he said, adding the standard for fixing cracked phones is often within a half hour.
As for the drawbacks of being independent?
“There are definitely some disadvantages. Like you can’t do AppleCare [technical support]. And some want that warranty from Apple. They want to know that, if someone replaces a part in their Mac, that Apple will warranty it. We have people come in who have expired warranties or they just don’t want to wait.”
Harnessing the future
Rothzeid said, while the growth of his business has been rapid, about 50 percent of his revenue comes from repairs, and Apple is making those repairs more difficult each year.
“Now I’m looking into servicing businesses, partly because Apples are becoming less repairable,” he said. “It’s a concern to some extent because we have a lot of accessories and we focus on selling refurbished equipment.”
Expanding a service arm and providing corporate support may be the way to deal with lost repair revenues, Rothzeid explained.
“When [repairs go] away, we’ll help businesses with networks, firewalls. … As I build relationships [with businesses], they’re asking if I can help with phones and firewalls and routers,” he said. “I really like helping people and the consulting piece.”
Rothzeid said there are so many small businesses in town without their own IT department who rely on “accidental architecture.
“They’ll say, ‘When 10 people worked here, it looked like this. But we added 20 more people and things are not working quite right.’ I’m pretty good at helping with stuff like that.”
Rothzeid said he could see The Mac Corner expanding into consumer training as well.
“There are plenty of things we could replace our repair business with,” he said. “Technology is going to stick around for awhile, and there will need to be people out there who know how to harness that technology.”