Stumbling upon the Smart Help Store
By Jim Teece
I wandered through a mostly empty Rogue Valley mall the other day. I saw boarded-up stores and bored shopkeepers. A sense of dread and emptiness filled the gaps once occupied by people. I thought about the past vibrancy of malls from my youth and then I started looking around and feeling a sense of despair. I wrote about the retail Apocalypse in the November issue (southernoregonbusiness.com/are-we-in-the-middle-of-a-retail-apocalypse/) and wondered what the future of malls are.
Then I stumbled up recently opened SmartHelp.
The store was empty of customers, but the enthusiastic owner, Todd Derek, was there providing customer service on the phone. I sat with Todd for a few minutes to find out about his new store concept and how he stays in business when there is hardly any foot traffic in the mall.
He has been working with Apple for years in developing 3rd party retail solutions and realized that there is a need to provide Apple level genius support to Mac customers in tertiary markets. Places Apple would never open an Apple store.
The SmartHelp store is his proof of concept. He took an old clothing store and converted it into a cool space divided up into sections.
In one section he has a smart home setup. He spoke to Alexa, Siri and Google as we sat there and the devices each did what they were commanded. Alexa turned on the porch lights, Siri locked the deadbolt on the front door and Google turned on a fireplace. I was impressed. I read about these things and see boxes for sale in Home Depot and Costco but it’s actually a very cool thing to see them in action. He shows you how to set it all up as part of his service.
He has all the latest Macs and MacBooks and he does iPhone and iPad repairs too.
Todd has been doing this for years and has about 7,000 customers that he provides customer service for.
He also resells computers and gear. He isn’t a discount reseller like Best Buy or Amazon, so don’t go there looking for the lowest price. He sells everything you need as a package of services on top of the hardware. He helps you install it, set it up to automatically backup, makes sure you are secure and protected and he provides ongoing technical assistance for a fee.
He focuses on Apple Computers but he provides support and service on the entire eco-system around those platforms as well as PC’s.
I asked him about the lack of foot traffic and he isn’t challenged by this at all. He says he doesn’t need it. In fact, he is the reason for his customers to come to the mall at all. If you have a computer that needs repair, or you want some one-on-one technical support, he invites you to make an appointment and come see him at the mall.
There is plenty of free and open parking.
SmartHelp (in the Rogue Valley Mall)
1600 N. Riverside Ave.Upper level: Space 2109
Medford, OR 97501 (Next to Eddie Bauer)
Open Monday ~ Saturday 10:00 AM ~ 9:00 PM, Sunday 11:00 AM ~ 7:00 PM
Jim Teece owns Project A as well as Ashland Home Net, Rogue Broadband and is a partner in Art Authority and Co-Publisher of the Southern Oregon Business Journal. JimTeece.com