Owns auto battery shops, plus Daniels driving range
Florida Lottery winner Jason Fry gets a charge out of business ownership.
Three years after collecting a $13.6 million, lump-sum jackpot payout, Fry has opened his second Batteries Plus franchise store — in Naples — and in September will debut a third in Bonita Springs.
He has also diversified, buying Golf World II in south Fort Myers. The renamed Daniels Driving Range & Teaching Center is open for business, and getting a slew of upgrades.
"This wasn't a money thing. I love the game of golf," said Fry, 37, a 15-handicap player.
Fry and Jim St. Germain, longtime golf instructor and Fry's business partner, see a greener future for the range.
Their vision is to not only provide a place for golfers to practice their swing, but to make it a family-friendly place and a magnet for time-starved players and folks who can't afford country club membership.
"We'll have customers we never had before," St. Germain said, as he showed a reporter the 1,300-square-foot putting green under development and the new grass tees.
Instead of numbered yardage signs, the range now sports pictures of wildlife: Drive that ball in the vicinity of the bulldog, and you've reached 75 yards. Make it to the polar bear, and you've powered it to 205 yards. It's a tip of the golfer's cap to the range's really young customers.
The range holds clinics for children as well as adults, and has four PGA professional instructors. The most recent hire: Earl Persinger, a certified Hank Haney assistant instructor. Haney is a former coach of Tiger Woods.
Mark Norden of south Fort Myers practices at the driving range almost daily, and takes a weekly lesson with St. Germain.
"It was kind of downtrodden before they took over," said Norden, who's 60. He also appreciates "the friendly people they've hired."
On the battery side, Fry said sales are up 30 percent since he purchased the south Fort Myers Batteries Plus in March 2009. For 2009, the store ranked No. 1 in sales nationally for the franchise, which has more than 500 stores.
Fry opened Batteries Plus across from Coastland Center in Naples last October. Next up: Batteries Plus at the Pelican Landing shopping center in Bonita Springs. In about a year, Fry hopes to open a battery store in Cape Coral — most likely along Pine Island Road.
During the economic downturn, "people are more cost-conscious. ... For example, Instead of buying a new phone, they're buying new batteries," Fry said, adding: "Our business is a need business, not a want."
When he can, though, Fry spends more time at the driving range than at a battery store. He does paperwork for Batteries Plus there, and coordinates marketing for the driving range.
"Then," he said, "I go out and hit range balls for an hour."
Jason Fry worked for three businesses, and got "zero sleep" before hitting a Florida Lottery jackpot in 2007.
Fry joined the ranks of employers when he bought a Batteries Plus franchise last year. Here are some things he's learned:
- The owner of a private business makes the final decision. As a bartender at south Fort Myers' Stonewood Grill & Tavern, he took issues to the manager.
- Treat employees with respect. Help them succeed. They will work harder, and are proud of their company. "I was proud of the food and great service at Stonewood; I was always out, talking about it," Fry said. "That's what I want with my employees."
- Expect long days building a business: "I work 60-hour weeks."
- Make time for the people you love. Fry is divorced, with joint custody of daughters ages 3 and 5. "When they're with me ... business doesn't come into play."
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Thanks to petergrfn for the tip.