Former Firehouse Subs franchisee Dan Lowe used to equate franchising with restaurants, but now he’s venturing into the retail sector with his first PayMore location.
PayMore is an electronics resale concept, with the name referring to customers being paid more for their secondhand electronics. Electronics can be exchanged and purchased and PayMore will recycle items that can’t be refurbished and sold. The company has been in business for 11 years and has 12 open locations.
While PayMore is his most recent venture, Lowe has been in franchising for more than two decades. “It’s really all I’ve done,” he said. “I really started catching the bug in high school.”
Lowe started his franchising career with a Domino’s store in Orlando, Florida. Looking to grow, he and his wife, Lindsay, found Firehouse Subs and became area representatives in the Washington, D.C., market.
“We jumped at the opportunity to be able to come back home,” said Lowe. “We’d grown somewhat homesick over the years and wanted to make that move and wanted to invest into an emerging brand,” which Firehouse was at the time.
The couple moved back to D.C. and their first store became a top-performing location. When Firehouse was sold to Restaurant Brands International in late 2021, the Lowes had 36 locations. Prior to the sale, Firehouse began transitioning away from its area representative model, according to a company spokesperson, and as of April it did not have any area representative-led territories.
Lowe noted the transition was “kind of forced upon us.”
“We were ready to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and having it ripped out from under us really didn’t sit all that well,” he said.
Though they were experienced restaurant operators, when it came time to examine other franchises, they opted for a retail concept instead.
“Over the years, restaurants have been increasingly harder to make a profit in,” said Lowe. “Unfortunately, a lot of it having to do with some of the things the government has done have really squeezed that industry as a whole, so we didn’t necessarily want to get back into restaurants.”
Lowe’s love of technology was part of the initial draw the PayMore. As he looked at the financials, “it just started to make sense,” he said. “The operations are just so much simpler than restaurants, the margins are better.”
His first PayMore location opened in December 2022 in Reston, Virginia, and Lowe admitted he was dreading the first day. In the past he devoted 100-hour weeks to his restaurants, dealt with subpar employees and had to manage a high turnover rate in the early weeks and months. PayMore, however, brought the opposite experience.
Not only has the business produced better margins in the months since it opened, Lowe said his work-life balance hasn’t imploded. Before opening, he’d considered delaying just to spend the holidays with his family for the first time in years. That turned out not to be an issue.
“It’s been a dream,” he said. “The location really could stand on its own two feet without me almost from day one.”
Support from corporate helped a lot, Lowe said, with PayMore providing plenty of training for his team. The ease of operations compared to his previous franchises has Lowe thinking about what his future may hold as a business owner.
Even with the challenge of being short a couple employees early on, which would be a “disaster” at Firehouse, Lowe’s team came together to support the business.
Lowe called the brand “recession proof,” which was another attractive element. “As people become more strapped for cash, they’re going to need to sell their devices to make ends meet or maybe they can’t quite afford the newest and greatest device so they’ll need to buy secondhand,” he said.
Lowe plans to add 15 more locations to his secured territories, 10 of which will span the D.C. area, and five will be located in Dallas. He plans to open three locations in 2023 on the Virginia side of D.C. to start. The lower initial cost—PayMore’s investment range is $134,250 to $257,500—means he can move quicker on development, he said.
“There’s just so many positives to this brand,” said Lowe, who aims to hit a target of $2 million in sales with his first unit. “It’s just been awesome.”