A Neighborhood Enterprise For The 21st Century Years ago, at-home service was common. From New York to California there are now repair people who will pull up in their vans, and, in just a few minutes, fix your mp3 player, or your iPhone.
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A Neighborhood Enterprise For The 21st Century

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A Neighborhood Enterprise For The 21st Century

A Neighborhood Enterprise For The 21st Century

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All those iPods and other electronic devices have given rise to a sub-industry of neighborhood enterprises. It's kind of like the days long ago, when bottles of milk were delivered to your door, or a repairman would come. These days repair people will pull up in their vans and in minutes fix your mp3 player or your iPhone or get you a new screen for the laptop.

NPR's Margot Adler reports.

MARGOT ADLER: Demetrios Leontaris sometimes calls himself the iPod doctor and his license plate says exactly that. But the first thing you notice is how many people come up to his van and ask him for a business card.

Mr. DEMETRIOS LEONTARIS (Businessman): Just give us a call and we can set up an appointment.

Unidentified Man: Okay, thanks a lot. Do you work with Macintosh?

ADLER: Leontaris has repaired cell phones, laptops, and digital music players. And he says his business got started by chance.

Mr. LEONTARIS: I fell in love with the iPod when I saw one. I really didn't have money to buy one. So, I bought a broken one thinking I'd get it fixed by Apple for a decent price.

ADLER: But he found out Apple's repair prices were too steep. So he bought another broken iPod for the parts. Took them both apart and fixed one of them. Before he knew it…

Mr. LEONTARIS: I just kept running into people with broken iPods that wanted them fixed.

ADLER: Whether your Blackberry has a cracked screen or you threw your Zune into the laundry, Leontaris generally has a fix. He sees about 10-15 clients a day and has two technicians working for him. He picks up his phone which rests on his knee.

Mr. LEONTARIS: Hi Eddie(ph) how are you? I'm here. I'm at 86th and Third right by the Banana Republic. It's across the street from the Papaya King, can't miss me.

ADLER: Do you have all your tools with you?

Mr. LEONTARIS: Yeah. I keep them either in the cup holder here or in my bag. But everything is pretty portable.

ADLER: Leontaris sits behind the wheel in his black van. His seat belt is buckled. He has a tiny silver toolkit, the size of a lunch box that sits on his lap and also acts as a worktable. Eddie Gonzalez and his son bring two iPods. One needs a new battery, which has to be soldered in the shop. The click wheel is broken on the other one.

Mr. LEONTARIS: Yep. There's a fairly simple explanation for this. There's a - there's a rubber piece behind the button that slipped down out of place. So basically we're going to put it back into the place now.

ADLER: It costs Gonzalez $49. Gonzalez found Leontaris on the Internet, of course, saw a couple of nice reviews.

Mr. EDDIE GONZALEZ: They're all true, right?



ADLER: So that's how you heard about him?

Mr. GONZALEZ: That's correct.

ADLER: Leontaris says his business goes in cycles. Students want their laptops fixed before school reopens. Winter break and spring breaks are hot times. But the worst time is just before Christmas, because people are waiting to see what they'll get.

Mr. LEONTARIS: I've actually had people tell me on the phone, well, let me see if I get a new one for Christmas and I'll call you back next week.

ADLER: But cyclical or not, he says business has doubled since the downturn in the economy. Demetrios Leontaris' next client is 23-year-old Shanty King(ph) who has an iPhone with a screen that's totally cracked. She has come with her computer-savvy boyfriend.

Unidentified Woman: How did it happen?

Ms. SHANTY KING: Well, I just managed to somehow with all these obstacles and things in my bag.

Unidentified Man: She sat on it. She sat on her bag with the phones was in there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ADLER: Leontaris takes out the tiny screws with a miniature screwdriver, opens it up, puts on a new LCD screen. The whole operation takes place in the car and it only takes about seven minutes. Price $99 for parts and service. He says people like having stuff fixed. They don't like to waste things. I'm giving them back their music, he says, their videos, and sometimes even their sanity.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

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