Trying To Be Talk Of The Town

April 05, 1995|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

The Glen Burnie Talking Community Bulletin Board could become the talk of the town.

Right now, though, few people know it exists.

The free telephone-information service is the idea of Kathryn Rimel, 46, and her husband Jay, 47, who run the board out of their two-story brick house in the first block of Glen Circle in Glen Burnie.

They started it a month ago. To advertise, they put up 50 fliers, tacking them to posts at Cromwell Fields Shopping Center and along three major roads.

They also used a telemarketing software package that allowed their computer to call 2,000 Glen Burnie households to tell people the service was coming.

The board gives the latest Maryland Lotto numbers, weather, time, movie listings, information on yard and garage sales, activities for senior citizens and happenings at schools and libraries.

It even includes weekly lists of the top 10 MTV albums and compact discs, video rentals and movies. This week, Sheryl Crow's "Strong Enough" is the No. 1 album, "Stargate" the No. 1 video rental, "Outbreak" the No. 1 film.

The Rimels consider the board a way to make up income they lost when Mr. Rimel, a mechanic for 25 years, had to retire because of health problems. He has a condition in which his blood flows slowly, while his heart pumps fast, causing him to faint.

Shortly after Mr. Rimel's son-in-law found him passed out in the back yard last fall, Mrs. Rimel quit her job as claims account specialist for a credit insurance company to be with her husband.

"He didn't feel he wanted to be home alone," she said. "It really upset him to be here by himself."

The Rimels, married 26 years, said doctors do not know what causes his condition. The family once considered day care for Mr. Rimel but rejected the idea.

"A lot of those people are quite a bit older and it didn't seem like the solution we wanted," Mrs. Rimel said.

The solution turned out to be the bulletin board. The Rimels sank $11,000 -- their life savings and his disability money -- into a package of five computer programs sold by Computer Business Services Inc. of Sheridan, Ind.

They learned about the business through an advertisement that came in the mail last September. In October, they drove to Sheridan to check out the company.

Peter Douglass, a vice president, said the firm expects to earn $35 million this year from selling software packages.

The board now is "receiving over 100 calls per day and the number is going up," Mrs. Rimel's voice tells those who call the board.

But the Rimels need advertisers to make the bulletin board a success. They don't have any, but are hopeful. They have recorded mock 30-second ads so callers will be used to hearing the real thing.

A one-month do-it-yourself ad on the board costs $75. Advertisers can do the ads in their own voices, add music or change ads as often as they want for no extra cost. The Rimels charge $100 a month if they create the ad.

Nicole Clary, executive director of the Northern Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce, believes the bulletin board "would be of interest to the business community" if businesses are aware of it.

Electronic community bulletin boards are not new. Native Americans and Alaskans have had one for three years called "EchoHawk.".

The Rimels want to expand their operation beyond Anne Arundel County, as long as the call is not long-distance. If the board fails, Mrs. Rimel will pull out the want ads and look for a job, the couple said. However, they don't expect to fail.

"This is our livelihood and we have no doubts it won't succeed," Mrs. Rimel said.

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