Want To Be Your Own Boss? Franchising May Be A Good Option

By Cathie Anderson
The Sacramento Bee

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr)  For some, buying a franchise is a great way to break into female business ownership. This article takes a look at a franchise called “Fast-Fix,” a 30 year old company whose franchise operators fix watches and jewelry. Some franchisees are actual jewelers or watchmakers, others are businesspeople who hire jewelers and watchmakers. 

The Sacramento Bee

Folsom resident Colleen King drives over to see Fast-Fix franchisee Liem Luong at Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights when she wants to get her jewelry and watches repaired, but Folsom soon will get its own Fast-Fix.

The Florida-based franchisor is looking to expand its presence around Northern California, said Gerry Weber, the chief executive of Fast-Fix Jewelry & Watch Repairs, and one franchisee is already scouting locations in Folsom. In addition to Citrus Heights, the company has a franchisee at the Westfield Galleria at Roseville.

“Northern California is open to us, places like Redding, Santa Rosa, Petaluma and obviously Sacramento,” Weber said. “We just feel there’s a huge opportunity for us to continue to expand.”

Weber said he arrived at Fast-Fix just 11 months ago as a consultant, brought on by the owner, Miami-based Pine Tree Equity Partners, to analyze the business and to outline new business opportunities. After he developed a business strategy, he said, Pine Tree’s partners asked him to stay on and he now has a small equity stake in the business.

Weber’s résumé includes stints in executive management for such companies as AutoNation, Shoppers Drug Mart and Blockbuster. He started with Blockbuster at its inception and worked there until one year after that company was acquired by Viacom. Since signing on as CEO of Fast-Fix, he has coaxed the company’s founder, Mark Goldstein, to return to help out new franchisees.

“He founded the company 30 years ago,” Weber said. “I spoke with him, and he still had the same passion for the business that he had all those years ago. … He’s very excited to come on board and help me to continue to grow the business.”

Goldstein started the business in Pittsburgh, Pa., but moved it to South Florida a few years later. Fast-Fix, now based in Boca Raton, Fla., has 160 stores. Most of them are in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, but there are a few franchisees in Ireland and England.

The company has about 50 stores in the Golden State, but most of them are in Southern California. The original Fast-Fix franchisee, based in Texas, is still with the company, Weber said, and he owned as many as 10 stores at one time.

“Over the past four or five years, he has sold off nine of them to his employees,” Weber said. “He’s created opportunities for nine other individuals. He’s retained one store, and I imagine in a few years, he will retire.”

Luong, an Elk Grove resident, did repair work at jewelry stores for more than 25 years before a friend introduced him to the Fast-Fix franchise. Luong decided to open a store in 2007, he said, and the company steered him into a site at Sunrise Mall.

“We have two types of franchisees,” Weber said. “We have a franchisee who is actually a jeweler or a watchmaker, and then we have franchisees who are businesspeople who hire jewelers and watchmakers. In either case, the jeweler or watchmaker is usually behind the counter doing work. They hire someone to manage the front of the shop and be their salesperson. That person becomes the unofficial mayor of the mall, getting to know employees at other businesses and soliciting referrals. In other cases, where the owner is not the jeweler/watchmaker, they’re the ones that get out front and deal with the customers and work the mall.”

Fast-Fix tries to locate its franchisees in malls or outlet malls because they provide a built-in source of traffic, Weber said. While some franchisees have opened kiosks within malls, the majority of Fast-Fix locations are tucked into 600- to 800-square-foot stores. Franchisees provide a number of services, including resizing rings, fixing the frames of broken glasses, replacing cellphone screens and remounting diamonds. They also often sell watch bands and a small selection of jewelry.

“This business will not be made obsolete by the Internet,” Weber said. “Sure, you can send things away (for repair), but are you going to send your engagement ring off to someone 1,000 miles away? Not likely. Most women want to stand there while we work on their diamond rings. They’re rather protective.”

King said she wears about 10 rings on her hands and wouldn’t go anywhere else to get them cleaned or repaired. In fact, she said, she has recommended Fast-Fix to co-workers.

“These guys are fair, very fair. Their prices are good,” she said. “I’ve been to other jewelers before … and let me tell you, they rip you off. I can come here and get things done for a lot cheaper and a lot better quality of work.”


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