Behind the Story: PolyTronics Phone Repairs

First Things First: Story Ideas

After finishing both our first and second stories on beer and wine, respectively, our group wanted to veer away from alcohol related topics and try something new. When we were all in class tossing around ideas, I had one fresh in my mind that I had been thinking of for a few days.

I had recently gotten my new iPhone 7 and had to return my iPhone 6 to Verizon for their money back trade-in program, but had cracked my iPhone 6 right before receiving my new one. When I was doing research on cheaper repairs than Apple, I stumbled upon PolyTronics, where I ended up getting my phone fixed and my idea was born.

When I went to PolyTronics to get my iPhone 6 repaired, I was greeted by a tall guy wearing glasses and an eager dog who jumped through the doorway to greet me. He was friendly enough, a little awkward, but told me the repair would take 20 minutes and for me to leave and come back in that short time. I went and got food and when I returned to get my repaired phone, I started asking him some questions. Did he run the business out of his house? What year in school was he? How did he get to be running this business on his own?

It was only a few questions, but his answers immediately sparked my interest, and I remember thinking to myself, “this would be an interesting story to cover for my senior project.” And lo and behold, a week later, I pitched the story to the rest of my team members and they went for it. With myself, Katelyn Piziali, on PR, Avrah Baum on multimedia, Vinny Van Patten on broadcast and Brittany Tesmer and Arinee Rahman both on print, I was excited to see the story we would uncover on PolyTronics.

Interviews: Scheduled and Scavenged

As soon as we had decided that we would be covering PolyTronics for our story, I went to work putting Brittany and Arinee in contact with Parker Smith, our primary source and the current co-owner/phone fixer of PolyTronics. I had already contacted him by text for my engagement report, and he had replied with how excited he was to be interviewed – something refreshing compared to the usual begrudging sources journalism students have to deal with.

Text message between Katelyn Piziali and Parker Smith.


That Thursday, the rest of my group minus myself went to interview Parker and his secretary Claire Drewery at his house on Santa Barbara Street near downtown San Luis Obispo.

Vinny Van Patten, Arinee Rahman and Brittany Tesmer interviewing Parker Smith.

Even though I didn’t get to be there myself, I heard only good things from my team members about how friendly Parker and Claire were, how cool the backyard was, and how cute the dog was.

Avrah Baum playing with Parker Smith’s dog, Elvis.

“His workspace is really cool and I was impressed with his set up and his commitment to the business,” Avrah Baum said.

Brittany Tesmer interviewing Parker Smith.

“Interviewing Parker Smith at his house was such a cool experience. I learned so much about iPhone fixing and small businesses. It was an inspiration to see a Cal Poly student run a full success business,” Brittany Tesmer said.

While most interviews are scheduled, there are those you have to scavenge for. After our first interview at Parker’s the previous Thursday, there were still some quotes Brittany needed to get from a professor for an expert source. So, we wandered around the business building on campus, knocking on different doors until we found a professor with his door open who would talk to us.

Brittany Tesmer knocking on Dr. Tad Miller’s office door.

Dr. Tad Miller ended up being very friendly and willing to give us the exact information we needed, even though entrepreneurship wasn’t his specialty. He gave us some great quotes, and we left feeling a little motivated ourselves.

Greatness does not come from waiting at the right time. I think greatness comes from being stupid and passionate and going for it,” Dr. Tad Miller said. 

Since there were still some facts and pictures that Brittany and Avrah needed, respectively, we headed back to Parker’s house later that same day, which happened to be election night, to get what we needed.

While Brittany asked questions, Avrah played with Parker’s dog, Elvis, and I finally got a look around on what I missed during the first interview.

Parker Smith explains phone repairs and parts to Avrah Baum.
Avrah Baum takes a picture with Parker Smith’s dog, Elvis.
Parker Smith repairs a phone at his workshop.

Reflecting and Feeling Inspired

Once Avrah got her pictures and Brittany had gotten her quotes, we left with hugs from Parker and a sense of accomplishment. It was crazy to see how we had come from an idea I had randomly thought of to a full-fledged story with several components.

With this being our third project of four, we’ve started to get the hang of things, but that doesn’t mean we get everything right. We’ve realized that while there are things you do get wrong, it’s those failures that lead to your successes. We all felt pretty inspired watching a student two years our junior running an entire business at his fingertips.

“The interview went well with Parker and it was really easy to speak with him. It was an inspirational experience to hear from Parker how he runs his business just by doing what he enjoys to do,” Arinee Rahman said.

“The interview was really cool. I enjoyed filming his quirky workspace and him working in it. I learned that it isn’t impossible to run a business while you’re in school, it just takes great time management skills and dedication,” Vinny Van Patten said.

Overall, this has been my favorite project topic to cover so far, just because there is so much detail that goes into repairing one phone and it was crazy to get to see the insides of the phones that we carry around everyday. I’m excited to see what topic we cover next – hopefully it’ll be a good one since it’s our last!

-Katelyn Piziali