WILKES-BARRE — Chris Piccolotti has seen plenty of smashed cellphones, cracked screens and busted game consoles. And he’s heard the stories behind most of them.
“I’m usually pretty good at determining how it happened,” said the owner of Center City Repairs in Wilkes-Barre.
But one job in particular stood out to him when a customer brought in an Xbox One system.
“The guy comes in, and it’s just in pieces,” Piccolotti said. “I said, ‘What happened?’ And he said his girlfriend threw it out a second-story window.”
Yes, he was able to fix it.
After all, repairing Xboxes was how this whole thing started for Piccolotti, a 30-year-old Meyers High School alum who grew up in Wilkes-Barre and now lives in Forty Fort.
He had started fixing Xboxes in 2011 while in Colorado, where he was helping his grandfather recover from a stroke. When Piccolotti moved back to the area, he continued doing it at The Video Game Store on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre.
As people in town got to know him for his work in fixing electronics, the same question kept popping up.
“People would ask if I worked on phones,” Piccolotti said. “It would be three times a week I’d hear it. So I knew there was a market for it.”
It made sense to expand his business.
With smartphones becoming ubiquitous in people’s lives, the demand to quickly fix a screen, battery or a charging port has grown in Piccolotti’s experience.
So two years ago, he opened his own shop two doors down on South Main, where he repairs, buys and sells electronics with the help of a small staff.
“People are finding out about us,” Piccolotti said. “It’s a cool, friendly atmosphere.”
The customer base he originally cultivated is still there, and word of mouth has helped draw new faces to the store.
Jim Murphy of Wilkes-Barre said a friend told him to check out the place, which he did earlier this month.
“Yeah, they had a lot of different stuff for sale in there,” Murphy said before pulling out his Samsung Galaxy phone. “I actually dropped this just the other day. Fortunately, it didn’t need any work done, but I’d probably come back here if I had a problem.”
Shops that repair cellphones are becoming more common. Piccolotti said he hopes his store is set apart by his willingness to work on many models, not just iPhones and Samsung models.
The key in establishing his own business?
“Optimism, man,” Piccolotti said. “For me, I don’t let things intimidate me. That’s the only thing that can set you back. If I can open it up and put it back together, I’m confident I can fix it.”
That mindset was important when Piccolotti faced a different type of hurdle recently.
A break-in occurred in the early morning of Sept. 5, as someone smashed through the front window of his shop with a crowbar and stole a dozen cellphones that were for sale.
The estimated cost of the lost merchandise and replacing the window was $3,000. It wasn’t clear whether he had insurance, but Piccolotti started a GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/our-security-fund) to help recoup losses with the intent of adding a security gate.
But for Piccolotti, it’s about more than protecting his own store — he doesn’t want the perception of the area to be damaged in the minds of customers and other merchants.
“For a while, there was a stigma downtown,” Piccolotti said. “I’ve been down here for a huge transformation, and I’m really glad to be a part of it. Me being here is a part of that (improving) image. I’m a percentage to be factored into that, and that makes me happy.”