By DAVE DELUCA - For the Star Beacon
When Heather Johnson bought Ashtabula’s Intermessage cellular phone stores last year, she had big plans. She envisioned bringing two more locations into the area, and creating a convenient, more affordable way for local users to find phones, cell plans, and accessories. So far she’s been successful. Ashtabula County now has four Intermessage stores – two in Ashtabula, one in Conneaut, and one in Geneva.
Johnson and her husband Kenneth bought Ashtabula County’s Intermessage stores from Rob Schimmelpfenning for an undisclosed amount in the fourth quarter of 2012. Her stores opened in the fall. Since then she has been president of the company. Johnson saw the expanding mobile communications market as a perfect opportunity to fill a needed business niche.
Her Intermessage stores are indirect authorized Alltel agencies owned and operated by local individuals. They carry practically every Alltel product made. Today almost everyone has a cell phone, so Johnson found a ready-made market.
“We’re ready to meet the need,” she said. “Anything you might want for your cell phone, we’ve got it hanging on the wall.”
Intermessage offers cellular phones of all kinds, inexpensive rate and service plans for cellular phones, and accessories, like phone cases, car chargers, Bluetooth wireless headsets, and screen protectors.
Johnson said one of her business goals was to create a “family friendly” store.
“We have great rate plans and service contracts for multiple phone families,” she said. “They’re custom made for everyone’s needs, from children to executives to soccer moms.”
Another one of Johnson’s business goals was to provide great customer service. She wanted to go beyond one-time sales and build a strong customer base.
“We research customer needs,” she said. “Some people need a mobile office, some people text a lot. We figure out their plan needs and options, then continue to work with them.”
She said customer service lasts for many months after sales. “We’ll show them how to use the new features like cameras and different apps. The service team is the point of contact for everything. They’ll take calls and walk you through problems.”
Johnson dreamed of having an ideal business during her 15 years in sales at Geneva Rubber and Plastics in Austinburg, and she seems to have found it. Now her main goal is making sure people in Geneva and Conneaut know an Intermessage store is nearby.
“We had a grand opening in Conneaut in January,” she said. “We’ll be having one in Geneva when the weather gets nicer.”
Intermessage in the Ashtabula Town Square Mall is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Call (440) 998-6100. Intermessage in Saybrook at 2600 West Prospect is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Call (440) 998-1500. Intermessage in Conneaut at 228 Harbor Street is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Sunday. Call (440) 593-6100. Intermessage in Geneva at 13 South Broadway is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday. Call (440) 361-4190. Visit the web site at www.intermessage.com.