Alvin D. was walking down Valley Road in Clifton from his parents’ house. He loved to walk. He walked everywhere. But this day, he came to a stop on a bridge en route to his job with the Clifton DPW. The pain in his leg was so bad that he wasn’t sure he would make it to work; his right leg was paralyzed.
Alvin, an African-American, was injured in a pedestrian accident in 1994 that displaced his spine. But at the time, he hadn’t realized that he had injuries, until about ten years later, when his injuries caught up with him on that Clifton bridge.
He went to chiropractors. But they didn’t want to touch them because they might break his spine. The doctors told Alvin he had no time left.
“They said if I didn’t have surgery in the next 6 months,” Alvin related, “I’d never walk again.”
Alvin spent three weeks in St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston for three weeks last March. The surgery took 16 hours over a two-day period
“I got pneumonia,” he says. “I got an infection in my intestines; they stopped working. The doctors had to cut through my intestines to get to my back. Toxins built up. I was in bad shape.
Alvin has eight screws and two rods along his spine
“My L-5 veterbrae was removed and replaced by a metal cage. I didn’t get much money because of the threshold on my insurance. Before the surgery, it was getting harder and harder to walk. There was pain every time I had to sit down. I had to stretch to relieve the pinched nerves. Now, I have titanium in my spine. I’m kind of like a robot. My friends say I’m going to set off airplane metal detectors. ”
“I had to thank God,” he adds, “because I almost didn’t make it. The infections were intense. I weighed 134 pounds. I couldn’t eat. I had to learn how to walk, breathe, think again. My insurance paid for some of my injuries, but I’m awaiting disability. When you’re 36 years old, it can take a long time for disability to kick in.”
Alvin is a single parent with a 15 year-old son whom he’s been raising since the boy was five. He knew he had to find a way to pay the bills.
So he decided to open Scooterz Electronics at 497 Clifton Avenue with his three partners: Karnale M., an IT tech; James H., an insurance mortgage broker; and Mohammed S., a charter school teacher in Newark. They’d partnered in other ventures together, including a successful real estate venture in Pennsylvania, remodeling foreclosed homes and re-selling them on the market.
Alvin is accustomed to working and didn’t want to remain idle.
“I worked at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Paterson for nine years,” he states. “I also worked for the Clifton Department of Public Works and the Clifton Adult Opportunity Center. I worked with people who had Down’s Syndrome and cerebral palsy, and people who lived in group homes. I loved those people. But I couldn’t work anymore because of my injuries. They had to let me go because they were a nonprofit and couldn’t afford my medical insurance.”
Mohammed and Alvin are neighbors. Mohammed is the actual owner of the store. Other renters had failed in their ventures and couldn’t pay the rent. Knowing his friend needed help, Mohammed rented the store to Alvin.
“When I moved to Clifton, I became friends with Mohammed,” Alvin says. “We share and learn a lot from each other – different ethnicities and areas in life.”
They decided the best business plan was to do something with the empty store.
“Karnale is into electronics;” Alvin notes, “he’s a computer tech and he had the idea to open an electronics store. Mohammed had the idea to name it ‘Scooterz Electronics’ – we couldn’t actually name it ‘Scooterz’ due to trademark issues – but the name ‘Scooterz Electronics’ worked out okay. And so we all said, ‘Let’s go for it!’”
Alvin has the free time to keep the store going, while the others work at their full-time day jobs work.
“We’re all young adults and we’re all trying,” Alvin says. “We have a really strong team. It’s the best team I’ve ever worked with in my life. We all have different roles in running the store.”
Scooterz is in the midst of a mixed business and residential neighborhood. Kids were gawking into the store windows long before it opened. Their focus is on providing affordable electronics prices for Clifton residents who can’t afford the high prices of box store electronics. Affordable merchandise.
“We have nothing but the cool stuff,” Alvin brags. “Our target is to promote the stuff kids like. Plus, everyone who has hobbies or adults who need electronics. There’s no other store around here like ours that can compete with us on prices.”
“We could offer the neighborhood good prices on durable and quality electronics. It only took us two months to get the store running, acquiring the merchandise. We and our customers are all from urban neighborhoods. We’re on Facebook, Snapshot, Twitter. We have a lot of sales online. It’s a big help. We’ve made a lot of money online.”
Scooterz Electronics officially opened on Jan. 16, a week earlier than planned due to intense customer interest. For Alvin, entrepreneurship means a life free of dependency on government support and wheelchairs.
“I couldn’t imagine living a wheelchair,” Alvin says. “That would be miserable for me. So instead, I’m selling hoverboards!