Miami-Dade

Technology, fresh ideas are creating new services for traditional businesses to serve customers

 

Special to the Miami Herald

From souped-up barber shops to carnival food catering and computerized dry cleaning, innovation and creativity are putting a new spin on how businesses operate, even some common services that have been around for centuries.

Jonathan Silva, a University of Miami student, used to do his dry cleaning the old-fashioned way until he discovered Zoom Locker, a Miami-based company that provides 24/7 dry cleaning, fold and wash and even shoe shine service.

Here’s how it works: Customers download the company’s app or register online to place the order, swipe a credit card to enter a kiosk and use their personal pin to unlock a shiny blue locker to deposit the laundry. Then they receive a confirmation email, including photos of the garments. Once the order is ready, they get a text and email to pickup anytime at their convenience. The turn around time is typically two days.

“I do a lot of dry cleaning because I’m studying business and have to dress professionally for dissertations,” Silva said. “It’s so convenient, so much simpler this way.”

Zoom Locker founders Noel Mendez and Marcel Monnar saw the locker-based concept in San Francisco and decided to re-create it back home in Miami. What began as a pilot venture last December has grown to include kiosks at 14 luxury condo buildings and three commercial locations in Coral Gables, the Miami Tower and inside the Miami Parking Authority’s College Station Garage in downtown Miami.

“It fits the 21st century family,” Mendez said. “In other times, moms didn’t work. Today both mom and dad have to work and with kids to care for and other activities, there’s less time for housework.”

Delivery Squad, a recent startup by web developer Michael Glaser and his wife, Parissa, aims to simplify another often dreaded chore — grocery shopping.

Customers browse through tens of thousands of items on the company’s site and then place their order, which is then routed to a Delivery Squad independent contractor who does the shopping and then delivers the groceries. The cost is $2 per each order of $30 or more and payment can be made with a credit card or Paypal.

“The average person spends about 41 minutes grocery shopping, not counting traffic,” Glaser said. “We’ve tried to replace the entire experience of going to the supermarket to online.”

Glaser, who lived in Spain where grocery delivery is common, created the computerized program for Delivery Squad, which can track the prices of products as they go up and down at local supermarkets. Service is available throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

“We are sort of like the new milkman,” he said.

A handful of other local businesses offer similar services. Miami-based Grocery Taxi, established in 2001, sells and delivers products directly from the company’s warehouse, which is stocked with more than 18,000 items. Sentir Cubano store in Little Havana delivers and ships Cuban staples, such as rice and beans and pastellitos all over the country.

Not everything new is driven by technology, though. Donut Divas and Fun Foods took classic, sticky sweet treats often only available once or twice a year at fairs and carnivals and made them accessible, and even fancy.

The company started out as a catering service eight years ago, offering mini doughnuts and chocolate fountains and has grown to become a favorite at corporate events, weddings, birthday parties, and bar mitzvahs. Donut Divas currently has nearly 20,000 followers on Instagram and about 32,000 on Facebook.

Last year, owners Yojani Blandino and Maria Acosta opened a store in Flagami with the intention of selling their famous mini doughnuts to offset catering expenses, but the store quickly became a hit among locals and they expanded the menu. Other popular items include deep fried candy bars and Oreos, mini funnel cakes, Churros, mini corn dogs, fudge puppies, pretzels, candy apples, and more.

They recently added a pickup window inside a Citgo gas station in Sweetwater.

“This is the only place in Miami where you can get carnival food year round,” Blandino said.

Barber shops are another business sector getting a makeover. There has been a growing trend toward throwback barber shops and the slow, old-fashioned art of shaving and cutting hair. Sloan Square Barbers & Shoppe in Miami Beach focuses on pampering men, outfitted with dark leather chairs and offers customers scotch or beer. Razzle Dazzle barber shops with four locations in South Florida, is an homage to the 1940s, when “men were vets and women were broads,” as stated on their page.

Regardless of how modern or classic, barber shops have traditionally been places where men socialize, tell stories and jokes, but Christian Castillo wanted to create a modern and family-friendly atmosphere at his shops.

Staffed with nearly 30 stations at each of its three locations, Blade Unisex Barber Shops are sleek and modern, equipped with massage chairs, pool tables, leather sofas, flat screen TVs, arcade games, free Wi-Fi, and even a DJ booth. The shops also sell Blade apparel.

Castillo said his employees have to wear uniforms and follow several rules to ensure a wholesome, professional environment in his shops, including no cussing.

“The idea is for everyone to feel comfortable and at home,” Castillo said. “I want to be different from other barber shops, make it a place for the entire family, moms and kids too.”

Mission accomplished. The weekend before school started Castillo said they saw more than 1,000 customers.

Innovative business

Zoom Locker dry cleaning and laundry

Hours: Kiosks for drop off/pick-up open 24/7

Where: Miami-Dade County; 14 residential locations (open to residents only), three commercial locations

Info and locations: 786-763-0720 or www.zoomlocker.com

Delivery Squad grocery delivery service

Hours: Seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: Miami-Dade and Broward counties

Info: www.deliverysquad.com

Donut Divas and Fun Foods

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Where: 3380 NW Seventh St.; 10715 SW SixthSt. (inside the Citgo gas station)

Info: call 305-456-5975 or www.donutdivas.com

Blade Unisex Barber Shop

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Where: 13860 SW 88th St.; 9513 W. Flagler St.; 14236 SW EighthSt.

Info: 305-485-3333 or t www.bladebarbershopsfl.com

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

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