Larry Mollo has made big business out of batteries. Here’s how he celebrates National Battery Day!
In July of 1981, as I ordered a few watches from my Seiko rep, I changed three watch batteries while we were talking. “You did three batteries the last time I was here, too,” he noticed. I didn’t think much about it. Sometime later, Bob Birbaum suggested I should keep track of how many watch batteries I replaced. So on August 1, 1981, I began keeping a written record. In the first year, I logged 693. I didn’t reach a thousand-battery-year until around 1989-90.
In the early years, I remember ordering 10-12 of a certain battery style. Nowadays, I commonly place an order for 200+ of a particular battery. Being a Stuller First member lets me order just the right number of batteries per shipment. I also have a recycler who pays me in new cells.
The best part of this business is welcoming customers that once came in as kids with their parents who are now buying engagement rings and other gifts. In recent years, salespeople at big box stores refer customers here for battery replacements, helping to send traffic my way. I am in a suburb south of Chicago in the downtown area, and while I don’t receive a huge volume of customers, batteries have created a welcome flow of people.
Long-time customers who drop by to visit often bring donuts, hot dogs, and milkshakes. I’ve even had customers vacuum the floor while I installed fresh batteries! I carry a line of bracelets made of copper with magnets which are a nice add-on sale for me. A few years ago, I welcomed my oldest battery customer on her 102nd birthday, accompanied by her 80-year-old daughter. I was so happy, I didn’t charge them.
I have a customer and his wife from Australia who come in every year or so for replacements — it has become a tradition. Another neighborhood kid who moved to London still visits when she’s in town and always brings 4-5 watches. Even going out to dinner can be a surprise. People see me and say, “Hey, the battery guy!” Sometimes, they’ll hand me a bag or envelope with a few batteries right there in the restaurant!
Last August, Mid-Western Jewelry News did an article about my battery business. I make some copies and keep them on my counter. Customers take them and hang them in church halls. The article was written as I installed my 60,000th watch battery. Fast forward to today and I’m soon closing in on 64,000. And while there are stores that change many more batteries than I do, in all these years, I’ve done all but three battery replacements myself.
Interestingly enough, I love extreme weather. Extended heat waves seem to suck the power out of marginal batteries. The same thing happens with sub-zero weather. I don’t know why, but it seems I’ve had some of my best days during the worst weather.
As I write this, the sun is shining and three customers have dropped off small boxes with nine, eleven, and fourteen watches for Saturday pickups. There are also four strap replacements and three crystal replacements in the treasure trove. And just recently, I just installed a battery and sold an expansion band to a customer that says he has been coming in since he was seven years old. Now he’s 42!