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Gerber, Wireless World offer Worthington ‘wireless solutions’

Store Lead Jay Gerber is pictured Tuesday at Wireless World in Worthington. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Jay Gerber will never forget making his first cell phone sale 27 years ago.

One of the first to sell a portable phone in the area, Gerber sold a big, bulky “bag phone” to the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office for a whopping $1,500.

“It was huge, it has wires going everywhere, and even then you still had to go on top of a hill to make a call,” Gerber said.

As the store lead at Verizon retailer Wireless World — which officially opened in Worthington on July 2 — Gerber has much better phones for sale in 2018. But in today’s high-tech world, he’s offering more than cell phones.

“It’s gone a lot further than just phones,” Gerber said. “We come up with what’s called wireless solutions.”

Those solutions generally involve a smartphone, but they have wide-ranging applications that go beyond iMessage. For example, Gerber uses a surveillance system at his house that sends alerts straight to his smartphone.

Here’s another example: a device that plugs into a car’s on-board diagnostics port and sends data, such as speed and location, to a smartphone. Gerber said one Verizon customer in Fairmont was saved by the application when he got into an accident and the application sent an alert to emergency medical services with his exact location.

Another useful device is a wireless internet “hockey puck” that allows for high-speed internet in rural areas through a smartphone.

As a veteran of the industry, Gerber has seen innovation explode to levels he never thought possible.

“I just laugh at how fast it grows,” he said. “It used to be we’d see major advancements every five years. Now it’s every 18 months.”

Gerber started his own phone business in 1989. It went through many names, including Cellular 2000, Midwest Wireless, AllTel and CCI Communications, before Gerber decided to move on.

As the owner and only employee at his business for nearly three decades, Gerber craved a new experience.

“I was the inventory, clerk, janitor … it was a lot of hat wearing,” Gerber said. “I grew this business from almost nothing, but eventually I got exhausted.”

More than anything, Gerber wanted a new challenge. He didn’t want to become complacent.

“If you get too comfortable, you can’t grow,” he said, adding that the reason he started at Wireless World was both the company’s core values, and its wide-ranging network.

“Having locations near Worthington offers a lot of advantages,” Gerber said. “For instance, we can pull someone from say, Fairmont, to fill in for someone if we’re short here.”

In addition to providing “wireless solutions,” the licensed Verizon retailer sells the usual assortment of phones, tablets, cases and equipment. It is located right next to Papa Murphy’s on Oxford Street in Worthington.