Patricia Perez and her daughter Ana pushed open the door of the modest storefront at 254 Grand Ave.
“I haven’t seen it for a long time,” Musa Ugurlu greeted them, standing behind the counter in the tidy, brightly lit space. ” How are you ? “
Patricia and Ana were looking for an iPhone as a birthday present for a nephew, they told Ugurlu. Ana, 17, got her first phone at the store about three years ago. Since then, they have moved to East Haven.
“It’s not that far and I love the place,” said Patricia. “If we need service, we come back here. “
About 12 minutes after Patricia and Ana entered, Ugurlu handed them a newly activated phone with a new service and a new number.
“Good luck with school,” Ugurlu called to Ana as they left.
Ugurlu, who is 40, sells and repairs several brands of cell phones; it is obvious from the outside. The name of the store – Turq Cell – is not obvious. There is no sign.
“He doesn’t need it,” observed Lee Cruz, a longtime resident of Chatham Square in Fair Haven. “Everyone in the neighborhood knows he’s the technician.
Between helping customers, Ugurlu told the story of how he opened the store and the philosophy that propelled his success.
In 2004 Ugurlu came from Turkey to study Mass Communications and Journalism at the University of Bridgeport. While on hiatus to pursue a Masters in Global Development, he teamed up with friends who owned Pizza by Romano’s on Ferry Street.
“I didn’t know much about the food industry and I was fixing cell phones at the Crystal Mall in Waterford to pay the bills. Let’s open a store here, ”he recalls. (He eventually redeemed his partners.)
He moved to the other side of the street in 2008 with “a few tables and a small display” and without much openness or advertising blitz. “My way of getting clients has always been to help them, and when they were happy with my service, they came back,” he said.
If someone wanted to buy a phone and didn’t have good credit, Ugurlu offered them the option of more affordable prepaid plans instead of being locked into a contract.
If someone came to him with a cracked screen, he would fix it “at a fraction of the normal cost,” he said. He fixed phones that were constantly crashing or responding slowly. It has helped customers transfer data from one phone to another, even remembering their passwords.
“A lot of people, especially the elderly, don’t know how to use a smartphone. They don’t even know their passwords, ”he said. “I invented a way to create a secure password with their information, so if they come back, say, five years later, I’ll ask them a few questions and I can tell them what it is.”
Sometimes a phone can surprise him. “Then I’ll say, ‘If I fix it, you pay me. If I don’t, you don’t owe me anything, ”he said. “Maybe I learn how they did it, and I can use that information in the future.”
This fascination with “reverse engineering,” as he called it, has been with Ugurlu since he was a child. He remembered turning on the color television when he was 8 or 9 and then taking the family dishwasher apart.
“My father has always supported me,” he said with a smile. “But he said, ‘OK, let’s put it back, son. “”
At that time, a man entered. He showed his phone to Ugurlu. The screen has been broken. There was a lump in the body.
Ugurlu started to speak English. The man shook his head. Only Spanish, he said.
Ugurlu opened a translator app on his phone and told the man he probably needed a new device. But if he found the same brand and the same brand, maybe Ugurlu could use those parts.
The man nodded. “I’ll be back,” he said.
“Since I became interested in all kinds of electronics. I have a lot of accessories like transfer cables and smaller parts for each type of device, ”he said.
Its repairs go beyond cell phones. “If somebody comes here with a problem, anything, their little DVD player doesn’t work, their camera, I’ll try to help them,” he said.
He is not averse to maintaining computers that suffer from water damage, stuck keys, or a general lack of response.
For problems with hard drives, he encourages customers to buy a new or refurbished one and come back. “I’m just going to charge for labor, and it’s a lot cheaper,” he said.
“In a neighborhood like this, people have a certain amount of money they can save, so it all helps,” he said. “You have to give value to your customers as much as they give it to you, so they come back and that keeps me open. “
A woman entered. She paid her phone bill and left.
“I have a lot of Ecuadorian, Guatemalan and Mexican clients. They don’t have bank accounts or credit cards. They have no way of paying online, ”he said.
“They come here and I help them fill out their food stamp application, or their weekly babysitting schedule, or print something. “
“I don’t advertise any of this, but if they get a letter that they can’t understand, they come to me and ask me what it means,” he continued. Sometimes he can help. For legal issues, he regularly calls on John Lugo, immigrant rights activist and founder of Unidad Latina en Accion, to support him.
During the pandemic, cell phone repair was seen as an essential service. Turq Cell was one of the only businesses open on the block for months.
It was good with Ugurlu.
“There is a personal satisfaction in working here, so much so that it doesn’t feel like work,” he said. “Every day that I come here, I look forward to something interesting so that I can work on it, fix it, and along the way I make a living.
“And if I can do little things for the community along the way, you can’t put a price on that.”
posted by: Christian mcnamara November 4, 2021 at 1:45 p.m.
“They come here and I help them fill out their food stamp application, or their weekly babysitting schedule, or print something. “I don’t advertise any of this, but if they get a letter that they can’t understand, they come to me and ask me what it means,” he continued. Sometimes he can help. For legal issues, he regularly calls on John Lugo, immigrant rights activist and founder of Unidad Latina en Accion, to support him.
This is what local businesses at their best can mean to a community and what we stand to lose as these businesses are dug by online behemoths. But hey – at least we’ll save $ 3 or whatever on our orders.
“And if I can do little things for the community along the way, you can’t put a price on that.” Amen, M. Ugurlu, amen. Somebody get a prize for this man.