Turning mom-and-pop shop into a franchise

John Shirley, Jr.

You might think franchise shops aren’t very fascinating to a very-local alternative-weekly audience which you are a member of.
But it turns out many franchises have an interesting story, especially if they are doing something you didn’t even know was a franchise possibility, like my friend who has a franchise putting up Christmas decorations.
Also, franchises have real people working there who live in our fine area and are part of our community. Franchises come in all shapes and sizes, and some are worthy of receiving light from my metaphorical spotlight.
In his great 1992 cyberpunk sci-fi book Snowcrash, Neil Stephenson took an exploration of the franchise concept to a fanciful extreme.
In this book, he wrote of a dystopic and surreal future where everything, including individual neighborhoods, were franchises that were identical across the country and functioned as sovereign nations. He gave a particularly illuminating quote that summed up the appeal of the franchise to consumers:
“In olden times, you’d wander down to Mom’s Café for a bite to eat and a cup of joe, and you would feel right at home. It worked just fine if you never left your hometown. But if you went to the next town over, everyone would look up and stare at you when you came in the door, and the Blue Plate Special would be something you didn’t recognize. If you did enough traveling, you’d never feel at home anywhere.”

This statement doesn’t quite apply to repair shops, but if an Asurion customer does crack their phone screen while traveling, there may be an Asurion nearby who will make them feel like they are at their local repair home.
Hopefully they don’t break their phone so much Asurion truly becomes like a second home replicated across the country like Taco Bell is to some.
Franchises are also often desirable to repair shop owners, like Hyle Erwin.
I talked to Hyle Erwin, who owns 12 Asurions. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Hyle started as a mom-and-pop single electronic repair shop owner. At some point he decided he would be better to team up with Asurion.
“I started off as a mom and pop 7 years ago and this is just how the industry evolved,” Hyle said. “The franchise Asurion went off and made partnerships with big players.”
This means Asurion is an authorized dealer for Samsung, Apple and some other big names. This makes it more likely a person with a device under warranty would come to them with their phone, laptop, tablet, etc. to repair.
According to Hyle, these franchises often have testing equipment that comes directly from the manufacturer.
Besides Hyle preferring Asurion’s business model for a single shop, Hyle found a better way to expand. He probably would have had a more difficult time starting this many stores in such a short time if instead he tried to reproduce his mom-and-pop operation around the country.
I’m sure there are advantages and disadvantages of franchise shops and single owner shops. For example, independent stores may have more freedom to do creative repairs to save money or salvage parts not normally salvageable.
Also, a person might feel better if the owner is in the same town as them and that is where all the profits flow.
On the other hand, a franchise shop is also helping residents thrive in the area. This branch of Asurion helped someone realize his Twin-Port’s dream. Hyle mentioned how Aidan Hemmila was an employee of  a Twin-Cities location when Hyle chose him to carry the company banner up north and manage the new location in Duluth where Aidan lived before.

“Aidan is familiar with the Duluth area,” said Hyle. “He moved out of Minneapolis. He said, ‘I want to move back to Duluth. I love it up there.’”
So, franchise and single-owner proprietor shops are both important to the local economy and each one might work well for certain owners and certain consumers.
I’m sure most consumers would not like to not have a choice or when owners feel they have no choice in whether to give up some of their individual identity as they join a collective.