Wireless Zone, a fast-growing wireless communications retailer, is targeting the Baltimore area, where it plans to open a dozen stores by the end of the year.
The chain's franchiser, Connecticut-based Automotive Technologies Inc., also operates the Car Phone Store, the leading wireless retailer in the Northeast with more than 90 stores in seven states.
The company is moving into the mid-Atlantic and changing the name of its stores to Wireless Zone.
All stores will be franchise operations.
The first Wireless Zone opened at the end of December in Columbia.
Others will open this month in Dundalk and Severna Park and in Ellicott City, Bel Air, Timonium and Glen Burnie by May, said Kevin Sinclair, the company's vice president.
The company, which sells wireless phones and pagers, expects to grow to 20 locations in the Baltimore-Washington region over the next 12 months.
Since its inception in 1988, the company has added about 20 sites a year, all of which are small, free-standing or strip center stores.
Automotive Technologies is targeting the Baltimore area because of its growing affiliation with Bell Atlantic Mobile, said Russ Weldon, the company's founder and chief executive officer.
The Car Phone Store is one of Bell Atlantic's largest distributors. About a year ago, the chain began selling Bell Atlantic service exclusively for its equipment, as will Wireless Zone.
Bell Atlantic also sells equipment and services at its Bell Atlantic Mobile Communications stores, of which it has 28 in the Baltimore-Washington region, said Audrey Schaefer, Bell Atlantic spokeswoman.
"We are growing our business in areas where they [Bell Atlantic] have a footprint, because there's a synergy," Weldon said. "They desire to sell their service to customers, and we connect customers to their service.
"They have suggested to us that the market is under-pen- etrated with locations, that there is an opportunity there."
Weldon started the chain with one store in Hartford, Conn.
"At the time, that was cutting edge," he said. "There weren't free-standing, independent car or cellular-type phone stores. I had people come to me and say, `This is a good idea. How can I do it?' That's how we spawned the idea of franchising."
Pub Date: 3/04/99