NASHUA, N.H. - Mickey Makkar was driving through Connecticut on his way to New York five years ago when the sign for an unfamiliar store caught his eye.
Makkar, then a restaurant owner, pulled off the highway and paid the store a visit. It was an @Wireless, which sells technology products ranging from cell phones to satellite televisions to global positioning systems.
"I went in that store," says Makkar, 53, of Nashua. "I liked the way it was a very modern type of store - very upscale."
Educated as a design engineer, Makkar filed the idea of owning an @Wireless franchise into his head. He knew he someday wanted to run a business with his son, Supreet, but he was still in high school. Besides, things were going well with Makkar's Nashua restaurant, Indian Village, which opened in 1989.
Last month, however, with 20-year-old Supreet a year away from graduation at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Indian Village having lost its lease, the timing was right.
Makkar opened New Hampshire's first @Wireless store in a small strip mall in Nashua. He has plans to open four more stores in the state within the next few years.
"This is an up-and-coming market for the wireless [business], as far as home office and small business is concerned," Makkar says.
The store, which Makkar says is the area's first exclusive Verizon dealer, sells the same products as the country's other 81 @Wireless stores. These include wireless Internet and data, Blackberry and e-Link, Z-Tel and other wireless accessories.
Like himself, all of Makkar's employees have a technical background and can set up computer networks in customers' homes and offices. Makkar says he plans to recruit employees from area schools like the New Hampshire Technical College and New Hampshire College. He says he would provide the schools with free products to help develop strong relationships with them.
In running the store, Makkar is tapping into the retail experience he gained in college.
"The thing I learned is you have to have product knowledge, that's very important," he says. "Also, meet the customers' demand and their expectation. We acknowledge the customer as soon as they walk in the store and try to give them the best service we can do, at the best prices."
Makkar's store, like other @Wireless franchises, can offer the "best prices" because of the volume contracts the franchiser negotiates with wireless businesses. The Rochester, N.Y.-based parent company says its contracts get store owners higher commissions and lower equipment costs than could be gained in single-store operations.
That was one of the reasons Makkar became an @Wireless owner.
"I had looked at other businesses, but these people are very, very helpful," he says. "They go out of their way to do things."
Makkar is in negotiations for a lease in Manchester, where he hopes to open an @Wireless by the end of September. The third store would be in Salem. And once Verizon has a network set up in northern New Hampshire - which is expected to happen early next year - Makkar plans to expand up there.
Mickey Makkar recently opened an @Wireless store in Nashua, N.H. He plans to open four more stores in the state in the next several years. The Rochester, N.Y.-based chain has 81 stores that sell products such as wireless Internet and data, Blackberry and