When Dan Kopp trains employees at his new Batteries Plus Bulbs store in the Northland, one question he asks is, “What do we do here?” They typically reply, “We sell batteries and bulbs.”
“I tell them, ‘No, we solve people’s problems,’” Kopp said. “We’re a destination store. People don’t come to browse, generally. They come with a particular issue, or a particular problem that they need help with. That’s where we step in.”
Kopp and Scott Neuburger recently opened a Batteries Plus Bulbs store at 7107 N.W. Barry Road, across from Zona Rosa shopping center.
Kopp, fluent in Spanish and Russian, spent six years in the U.S. Air Force before he was honorably discharged in 1994. He then earned a degree in Russian Studies with an eye toward working in the State Department. He also held a full-time job at Sprint and was promoted to management and later transferred to Kansas City.
But 60-hour-plus work weeks didn’t leave much time for his young family. Besides wanting a more flexible schedule, he also liked the idea of working for himself. The self-described techie was already a fan of Batteries Plus. So he left Sprint in late 2007 and opened a store at 13408 Metcalf Ave. in Overland Park in 2008.
Neuburger, fluent in German, served in the U.S. Army Reserve in Europe for 20 years before finishing his commitments in 2009. He was a stay-at-home father to his two boys, 5 and 7 years old. After returning to the U.S. in early 2013, he also wanted a flexible schedule and started working for Kopp in outside commercial sales.
The two veterans are now partners in their new Northland store and in a third store they plan to open in 2015 at Interstate 70/Interstate 470 in Independence.
The stores offer more than 45,000 different items — from car batteries to watch batteries to batteries for electric razors — and light bulbs and accessories. They also have a “while you wait” repair service for iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices and a battery recycling program. They will test car and truck batteries for free, and they offer energy savings recommendations and volume discounts for businesses.
“I’m a people person and, in that regard, every single business is a potential customer — from chain restaurants to small businesses with one or two employees,” Neuburger said. “I can cut their costs, make a delivery. There are a lot of opportunities to help.”
Batteries Plus Bulbs said battery sales in the U.S. are a $30.7 billion market and growing, while sales of light bulbs are estimated at $17 billion annually.
Batteries Plus opened its first store in 1988 in Green Bay, Wis. It started franchising in 1992, and some stores later began adding light bulbs to their line, changing their name to Batteries Plus Bulbs. There are now 625 locations in 47 states and Puerto Rico. Along with the new Northland store and the one in Overland Park, there are area stores in Belton, Lee’s Summit, Liberty, Olathe, Shawnee and Lawrence.
“We spend a lot of time talking to people to help them make the best selection,” Kopp said. “‘How do you use your cordless phone? Do you make a lot of short calls? Or are you on long calls?’ There’s a different battery that we would recommend for either situation.”
New boutique for the Plaza area
The Country Club Plaza is losing several locally owned retailers — Halls, Jack Henry, N Valentino.
So Anna McNair considered the timing right to help fill that niche.
McNair had owned and operated a downtown PerfectStyle Boutique, selling only women’s clothing and apparel, for a year before moving to Texas in 2012.
Now she’s back to reopen her boutique, making it even “bigger and better.” When it opens in early September at 4540 Main St., it will sell both women’s and men’s clothing from “day to play,” and offer a variety of fashion services.
SophisticatedStyle will be on the upper level, offering everything from “modern business attire to evening elegance.”
The Collection will be on the second level, offering exclusive designers and labels. It will feature large dressing rooms so the employees can come in to help style the outfits.
StyleStudio will be on the bottom floor, offering fashion consultation, a Vanity room for makeup and hair preparation for a special occasion, and a photography studio for customers to capture their finished look or as a studio for area fashion photographers.
Employees will have a minimum of five years of sales experience so they can help customers select the best styles, colors, patterns, and designs for their body type, personality and career goals, McNair said.
Other services will include personal shopping, closet organization and packing for travel.
The former Jardine’s restaurant and jazz club space, at 4536 Main St., also is expanding by about 550 feet to 3,300 square feet to make it more attractive for potential restaurant tenants.