After being in the appliance sales and repair business for more than 20 years, Tyler initially got into the cell phone business just as a way of drawing customers to his appliance store.
"We started selling more and more," he said. "It just got bigger and better. Now we're averaging 175 cell phones a month. It's a booming business."
Long before he began selling cell phones and accessories, Tyler was a believer in the usefulness of the wireless phones.
"Years and years ago before very many people had them, I got a cell phone and forwarded my business phone to my cell phone. It cost me a fortune, but it paid for itself because I got business you wouldn't believe.
"When I was working under somebody's house, I'd get calls and take care of customers."
Hearing Tyler's voice under the house, homeowners naturally would get curious.
"They'd ask, 'Who you talking to under my house?'" Tyler said.
After he explained that he was talking on the phone, his customers often decided they wanted a cell phone, too.
"I told the local cell phone dealer that I had sold more phones than anybody in Rockcastle County."
These days, making people aware of cell phones is not the problem; it's guiding them through the maze of plans and phones available to them.
"We make sure that every person who comes in here is treated as an individual," he said. "We make sure that when they go out of here, they get the right kind of phone."
He sees a lot of people who do not have "the right kind of phone," he said.
"I've seen truck drivers who had local plans that were totally useless, and I've seen people here in town who never go out of town who have plans that go nationwide."
Tyler said his employees work partly on commission and are motivated to keep customers happy.
"My employees make pretty good money if they sell a lot of phones. If they don't satisfy the customer, they don't make any money," he said.
"Our main goal is to satisfy the customers," he added. "I try to satisfy our customers even if it costs me money."
Tyler says he has received "top dealer" plaques from CellularOne every month this year, and one of his agents received the "top sales" award for six of the past seven months. Another of his agents picked up the award for the seventh month.
He said he has "a lot of good people" selling phones at his stores and has had very little turnover.
"I have a good working relationship with my employees. I trust my employees and let them make some pretty high-up decisions."
His stores probably offer more phone accessories than any dealer in the area, and that represents a growing part of his business.
"We're getting in new stuff every day, stuff that I've never seen before," he said. "I put them in the Peddler's Mall and see how they do."
His background in the appliance repair business comes in handy when trying to help people out with their phones.
"Even for people who bought their phone in another store, if they bring them in here, we'll try to take care of the problem," he said.
"We can repair a lot of phones. We can solve a lot of problems."
People are attracted to cell phones for a variety of reasons, he said.
"A lot of people who come in here have broken down over the weekend and they say that's the last time they'll leave home without a phone.
"A lot of people get them for their kids who go on ball trips and need to call and tell their parents when to meet them at the bus.
"A lot of people don't want to pay a fee for starting a land line."
And it's not just the young who are drawn to the wireless world.
"You'd be surprised at the older people who come in who have done away with their land lines and are using cell phones.
"They can take them with them wherever they go, and they don't miss any calls."
After years as a repairman and appliance salesman, Tyler said he is enjoying the cell phone business.
"I miss the repair business, but I enjoy selling phones and dealing with the public," he said.
"God's blessed us with business. We started out with refrigerators. Now we've got phones. Just like anything else, it has its up and down times.
"I'm just an ol' country boy who started selling phones."|5/6/04|***