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Friends' network of cell phone stores expands to Farmington

Matt Funk, right, is pictured with Sean Morrison, the manager of the Wireless Zone store that opened July 1 in Farmington.The store is located in the City Center shopping area, across the parking lot from Family Fresh Market.

The cell phone business has been good to Matt Funk and his friends. From a single Wireless Zone store in 2009, the four college buddies now have a network of six franchise locations, the newest of which opened July 1 in Farmington.

They're not done, either. The group, all of whom worked at cell phone stores to help pay their way through college, already has plans for two more locations this year, and Funk said they hope to have 15 to 20 locations within two years.

It's an ambitious plan, but nothing Funk has seen so far leads him to believe it will not work.

Wireless Zone stores are meant to be one-stop shops for anyone looking for phones or service on the Verizon network. Verizon typically opens its own stores in bigger cities. Stores like Wireless Zone fill in the gaps elsewhere.

Wireless Zone offers cell phones and accessories as well as business-to-business services.

Funk and his partners were the second ones to open a Wireless Zone store in Minnesota and they have more of the stores than anyone else in the state. They started in Mendota Heights and expanded to Rosemount, Hastings, St. Paul and Menomonie, Wisc. Before coming to Farmington.

Funk said there are fewer and fewer gaps for Wireless Zone stores to fill in near the Twin Cities.

"It's getting pretty tight in the metro," he said. "This is probably one of the largest towns you can find without a Verizon store."

As they continue to expand, Funk and his friends hope to eventually be the go-to place for cell phone service in the southeast metro.

Funk grew up in an entrepreneurial family. His father was a beer distributor, and he frequently told his son owning your own business was the way to go. Over the last few years, Funk has found he agrees. He likes being his own boss, and he likes the business he's in.

Being in the cell phone business means keeping up with a lot of changes. Technology evolves rapidly and the latest-and-greatest phone one month might be replaced by something newer and faster the next.

"I would consider myself a business guy, but I've got a lot of tech guys working for me," Funk said.

Business has been good early on at Farmington's Wireless Zone. The store is offering several specials as part of its opening.

"Everybody is happy to see us so they don't have to drive 10 minutes to the next cell phone store," Funk said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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