As northern Nevadans became more frugal during the current recession, the region's Batteries Plus franchise was a direct beneficiary.
Don Vergilio, who launched the company's first northern Nevada store in 1999, has opened a third location at Prater Way and McCarran Boulevard in Sparks, near the landmark Joe Bob's Chicken Joint location.
The new 2,200-square-foot location joins the company's flagship store at Kietzke and South Virginia in Reno and a store at 1400 S. Carson St. in Carson City that Vergilio launched in 2001.
"We're doing very well here," says Vergilio.
Besides, he says, the declining price to rent retail space encouraged the company to expand during the downturn.
The recession, Vergilio says, left the Batteries Plus stores relatively unscathed. A major reason: Consumers have been holding onto cell phones, laptop computers and other battery-powered devices longer, which means they're more likely to need a replacement battery.
The Reno store also does a solid business rebuilding battery packs for power tools and other applications. One of the company's staff of 16 does nothing but rebuild those battery packs.
Batteries Plus estimates that the average household has 21 different battery-operated devices, and the franchise operation headquartered at Hartland, Wis., estimates that the U.S. battery market is growing by 2.5 percent annually.
The company says the market will total $33.6 billion by 2012.
"We're a battery society," says Don Vergilio Jr., who joins with his father in running the northern Nevada operations.
The company stocks more than 15,000 batteries and battery-related accessories to power everything from a hearing aid to a school bus.
Even with that depth of inventory, Don Vergilio Jr. says the store's staff gets stumped once every few months, often when a consumer hopes to find a battery for a long-discontinued item.
About two thirds of the Batteries Plus business in northern Nevada is retail, and the remainder comes from commercial accounts, says the elder Vergilio, who's been in retail most of his life. (He also owns the Candy Barrel store at Grand Sierra Resort.)
But the store's product mix also posed a challenge when Vergilio worked with Al Souza of Capurro & Reid to find a location in Sparks.
Batteries Plus needs the visibility of a high-traffic location, but it also needs a drive-in bay for installation of vehicle batteries.