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Meet Andy Freivogel of Science Retail in Oak Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andy Freivogel.

Andy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I bounced between coffee, retail, and technology for about 25 years. At my last job, I was IT Director for Intelligentsia Coffee. It was an amazing place to be, and I was there for about 5 years. However, I found that with the trend toward consolidation in specialty coffee, if I wasn’t an owner, I wasn’t going to be able to build anything for my family and myself, and so when the CEO at the time left the company, I decided to make my move and strike out on my own. I knew I enjoyed working with new and existing independent retailers from my experience at Intelligentsia opening stores in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Each new store was like a laboratory where we could take all of the technology from previous shops that worked well and augment it with some of the new technologies that had become available. Things change every six months in the point-of-sale and wifi world. Those are big components of a retail store’s technology footprint.

I didn’t do it alone, though… I happen to be married to Laurie Freivogel from Kiku Handmade, and she had just undergone a transition to wholesale, which meant less weekend art shows and higher production. She really helped keep us afloat when I launched Science Retail.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Like everything I do, it always takes a lot longer to achieve my goals than I think it’s going to take, and that’s because I’m almost hopelessly optimistic.

However, we’ve chipped our teeth on a couple of projects, and in each case, it’s been doing something that we weren’t sure was a good fit from the start, only to have that doubt confirmed by experiences that didn’t meet our expectations or the customers.

I basically drained my 401K from a previous job in order to keep paying the bills during the first couple years. I wish I hadn’t had to do that, but every day brings fresh assertions that I’ve done the right thing.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Science Retail story. Tell us more about the business.
Science Retail provides technology consulting, implementation services, and ongoing support to independent retailers, restaurants, taverns, and cafes. Occasionally, we provide more traditional IT services to small businesses, but it’s usually because we have a relationship and trust one another and it makes sense.

Additionally, we have a growing web design business, thanks to Science Retail’s co-founder, Luisa Castellanos. Luisa has been an integral part of Science from Day 1. She has been an artist and entrepreneur her whole life, but in addition, she has a pretty brilliant design sense, unparalleled professional instincts, and shares my optimism that we can do just about anything.

Our typical day includes consulting with retailers/food & beverage operations to guide them in their decision making regarding the point of sale systems, wifi, guest detection/engagement systems, ordering systems, and more. Often, we are onsite installing these systems once the customer has made the decision. Finally, we take lots of phone calls and emails from our customers as part of our support offering. Customers would much rather call us to figure out a problem than a point-of-sale company, ISP, or credit card processor. We get the answers faster and we don’t play the finger-pointing game. We just get it fixed.

I’m most proud of our ability to identify a niche that was almost completely untouched, and really deliver value to our customers. Many are making small margins on what they do, and they work 80 hours a week to earn less than most professionals. We help them maximize their profits by avoiding wasteful or unnecessary spending on technologies that don’t always help. Sometimes, there can actually be such a thing as too much technology. We don’t stand for that.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’m a strong believer in good luck, but it’s often a product of a lot of work and a lot of good decision making. If you work hard, stay alert to opportunities, and move fast when they present themselves, that “luck” will come in the form of a deal that you close because you were there at the right time and ready to deliver.

In life, I cannot even explain why the blessings we’ve received have been bestowed upon us. I’m a deeply spiritual person — not a Christian, mind you — and I would say it’s common for me to spend my spare cycles helping people and seeking out ways to make the world easier for other people. I find that if you put something out there, it makes for a world where everyone’s luck improves.

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