Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
It was my opportunity to prove I could fix things.
While a college student, back years and years and years ago, I was experiencing some problems with my Honda 450 motorcycle. Considering I was broke, I decided to take it apart as opposed to paying a mechanic to fix it.
So there it was, the inner workings of my motorcycle, all over the floor of my garage. I had labeled the parts carefully so I could put it back together.
Once I got it apart, though, I still had no idea what was wrong. And then I tried to put it back together.
When I left college for my first job, that motorcycle was in cardboard boxes, left behind for the dump.
I remember that moment when I consider fixing anything myself around my house, which includes all the electronics we depend on these days.
So it caught my eye when I saw the sign while driving down University Parkway in East County.
That's my kind of shop.
I tried to make a quick right into the Ubreakifix parking lot, but I already had passed the shop's entrance. It took 10 minutes to make the two U-turns necessary to retrace my steps, but that's a story for another day.
Once inside, though, I met East County's Joel Scott, who basically is the anti-Jay when it comes to fixing things. He actually likes taking stuff apart, and putting them back together. I didn't know it, but Ubreakifix is a chain of 520 fix-it shops and Scott is a franchise owner of three such stores in Sarasota and Bradenton. He opened the East County franchise in 2018 at 3315 University Parkway.
Scott grew up in Fort Myers and was working in finance when a friend told him about his own Ubreakifix franchise. When he decided to give the business a shot, he moved to East County in 2015 so he wouldn't infringe on his friend's Fort Myers' territory.
Although the 27-year-old Scott has a degree in business, he said he was a lover of computers and gaming as a kid. "I always loved technology," he said. "Now I fix things all day long."
He underwent an intense six weeks of training in 2015, and much more of the knowledge about fixing electronics he has picked up through experience.
"I never had been a big tinkerer," Scott said. "But you could say I'm a big nerd. And this is like a science class."
I quizzed Scott on the kinds of things he fixes. He said phones — no surprise there — are his No 1 job, followed by tablets and computers, TVs, game consoles and drones. Together with his three employees at the East County location, they provide free diagnostics to deliver the news whether something is worth fixing.
Unfortunately, Ubreakifix focuses primarily on electronics. He had a call the other day about a cracked windshield, which he declined to fix. Then a woman called because she had a tear in her screened lanai. That was a no go.
When it comes to electronics, though, he has no limits. A customer called because his heirloom lamp wasn't working. Scott told him to bring it in, and he would give it his best. He eventually rewired it.
A man wanted his 1960s record player fixed and Scott went online to eventually find a similar, and broken, one. He bought it for parts and fixed the man's beloved turntable.
One guy had an old Pac-Man Video Arcade game that was broken. Scott and his staff rewired it and played it while things were slow around the shop until the man eventually picked it up.
I listened as Scott explained the scope of his projects, and then talked about one that hit close to home.
"Liquid damage," he said when talking about the primary ways people damage their phones. "People brings us phones that are full of water."
It made me feel better because I have experienced this slap-your-forehead stupidity not just once, but twice. Once was during a day on a North Hollywood beach and the second time in my sister's swimming pool. Both times I had that sinking feeling when I noticed my cell phone had been submerged for 30 minutes.
At least I know I am not alone.
What I didn't know is that the phone, in many cases, can be fixed and all the important information saved. I had been told both times by my phone provider that nothing could be done.
"We take them apart and dry them out," Scott said. "We put them in a dehydrator for two to three hours. There is a lot of rust and corrosion that we need to clean up. But we often can get it working, get them their pictures and data back. If we can't, there is no charge."
I drove away happy, knowing I had made a new friend. I smiled as I headed home to go through some of my broken electronics, all piled up in a cardboard box.