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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2012 7 years ago

Apple repair business peels fast growth

iHospital is based on the premise that when someone's Apple device breaks it calls for an emergency fix.

What started as the ultimate in technology tinkering — taking apart and reassembling an iPhone — has turned into a rapidly growing business for Ross Newman.

The company is Tampa-based iHospital. It's based on the premise that when someone's Apple device breaks, from cracked screens to dropped-it-in-the-toilet, it calls for an emergency fix. “Our (employees) wear scrubs all the time,” says Newman. “We take the medical theme seriously.”

Newman takes the company's growth seriously, too. He opened the first iHospital in a 300-square-foot office in downtown Tampa in 2010. Since then, he's opened five more stores, including locations in Gainesville, Nashville, Atlanta and New York City. There are two stores in Tampa now, and Newman expects to open his seventh store, in Naples, later this year.

The stores are corporate owned, and Newman says he has no plans to franchise the concept. He declines to comment on revenues. But a March 20 Wall Street Journal article on the burgeoning Apple repair industry says iHospital's six stores each had about $1 million in sales in the last year.

“We will grow rapidly,” Newman tells Coffee Talk. “We are really trying to grow all across the U.S.”

Newman, 27, bought his first iPhone in 2007. He took it apart and put it back together, a trick that impressed his friends. He had been a software developer, but longed to run his own business.

So he went into technology repair, with an exclusive focus on Apple products. Apple stores do repair work, but the main focus there is retail. Several other Gulf Coast stores fix Apple products, such as Computer Advantage in Sarasota, though Newman hopes to have a new niche in focusing on fast repair work. “Before we started iHosptial there was no one who specialized like this,” says Newman. “But there really was a demand for it.”

Newman says the growth isn't only in walk-in clients. He has also picked up several corporate and government clients.

A common theme in all the repairs, no matter the client, is liquid damage. Newman says that covers a wide range of fluids, from the standard toilet drop, to falling into a pool or off a boat, to even the occasional animal urine. Says Newman: “We've seen it all.”

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