Ray Dow admits to some trepidation about re-entering the retail world as he prepares to open a recycled electronics store in downtown Medford.
"I fought the concept constantly," Dow said. "I've had retail stores before, some go good and some don't."
As time wore on, however, it became apparent to the part owner and general manager of ITREX — an electronics recycler whose business stretches from the Columbia River to the Sacramento Valley — that there was a market for used laptop and desktop computers.
"It became clear from the amount of good material we were picking up that we had to do it," Dow said.
Recycling Square Electronics, or R≤E, as Dow and his staff call it, is at 218 E. Main St. in downtown Medford, strategically near Rogue Community College.
"College kids tend to have low levels of income and high levels of technology requirements," Dow said. "If a student can come in and get a laptop to handle everything for school for between $200 and $225, it will make sense."
ITREX is an authorized Microsoft refurbisher and has seen its payroll grow to 15 people locally; the new store employs five.
The recycling business is situated behind Garrison's Home Furnishings on Highway 62. While it has sold refurbished computers for more than a year to schools and other clients, it wasn't designed for retail.
"We've always had a certain amount of walk-in traffic," he said. "We recycle from almost all of the computer shops in town and companies would ask if we can do this or that. Our shop out there is not exactly customer-friendly because it's packed to the gills."
Castoff equipment from banks, corporate headquarters and other ventures still has the capacity to do just about anything required by the latest software — save for computer-assisted design and high-end graphic programs.
"If the computer checks out, we buy new parts and fix whatever needs to be done, if it's cost-effective to resell it," said Ron Bishop, public relations manager. "If the computer works, we want to get it back out into the community that can't afford technology. The retail shop is how we can do it."
ITREX had Internet sales revenue of $128,000 in 2012.
"That was deeply discounted from when it was new," Dow said. "It was easily worth half a million when it was new."
R≤E's grand opening is from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday. It carries computer parts, printers, cables, cords and other electronic accessories. Current military and veterans with Veterans Affairs identification as well as RCC and Southern Oregon University students with school ID receive a 10 percent discount.
The store's telephone number is 541-500-1288. (Correction: The number has been corrected in this story.)