INK Restore will recycle used ink cartridges, remanufacture them and refill them, but their ultimate goal is to keep the consumer out of the red ink by providing lower cost products of equal value.
The remanufactured cartridges available at INK Restore are around 50 percent cheaper than original cartridges, which they also sell.
INK Restoreâ€™s store in downtown Lincolnton doesnâ€™t actually refill any cartridges on site. Instead, any cartridges traded in are shipped to a factory where machines precisely clean and refill the cartridges.
â€œAt some point we hope to be able to refill simple cartridges in the store,â€ said Tom Fox, one of three partners; the other two are Ted Polk and Johnny Gilleland
For now, any cartridges brought in are first checked to make sure the circuitry and printer heads are intact. Then the cartridge is sent to a factory where it undergoes a 20-step process of remanufacturing.
â€œAt other stores, the cartridge isnâ€™t vacuum sealed and it isnâ€™t equalized,â€ said Ted Polk.
Often a backroom refilling process leaves a mess for the customer. INK Restoreâ€™s process maintains a proper balance between ink-flow, vacuum and pressure, leaving the cartridge of equal quality of the original.
In fact, remanufactured cartridges have 10-15 percent more ink in them than original manufacturing cartridges.
â€œWe canâ€™t improve the quality of the cartridge, but we can get more pages out of it,â€ Polk said.
INK Restore will only refill a cartridge once. After that, cartridges are given to third-world countries, which will use the cartridges four to five times.
Polk sees their primary competition coming from other small ink cartridge stores rather than big stores like Wal-Mart and Staples.
â€œThey know a little bit about a lot of products,â€ said Polk. On the other hand, INK Restore only deals in printers and cartridges, and has staff to help with problems and even repairs.
If a defective cartridge is found, the return policy is no hassle. Customers can get their money back, get a replacement cartridge, or even a brand name cartridge.
The three partners chose to set up shop in Lincolnton because all are long-time residents of the area. Their parent company, Carolina Imaging Group, is located on Industrial Park Road.
â€œThis is our community,â€ said Polk. â€œWe live here
â€œThis is something that we think the community needs,â€ said Fox. â€œWe are excited to be downtown.â€
Their downtown location also offers them free advertising through such large events such as the Alive after Five, the Hog Happeninâ€™, and the Apple Festival.
Eventually they hope to open five stores. The Lincolnton location is their pilot store. â€œWe want to make sure the concept makes sense,â€ said Polk.
They believe it will fly. According to Fox, all the recycling enables INK Restore to sell remanufactured cartridges cheaper. Companies like Hewlett-Packard basically give the printer away. Where they hit the consumer is on the cartridges.
â€œLook at HP and youâ€™ll see the only division that makes a profit is the ink division,â€ said Polk. â€œUnfortunately, profit for them means cost for the consumer.â€
The business also sponsors a recycling program for local schools, business, and charities that can help them raise money.
â€œWhat makes us different is that we customize the collection boxes for each group,â€ said Fox. â€œEveryone of those boxes costs us money. Itâ€™s a totally no-cost fundraiser for charities.â€
Any kind of business, school, church, organization, or charity can collect used cartridges and old cell phones and send the box in once it is full.
â€œWeâ€™ve got 15,000 organizations in 37 states participating,â€ said Polk. Organizations can make anywhere from $50 to $1,000 a month.
INK Restore sells remanufactured ink cartridges, as well as printers and brand name cartridges. They also handle printer and computer repair. Recycling and fundraising programs are available for charitable organizations, schools, and churches.
INK Restore is located at 103 East Main Street. Hours are 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Call (704) 732-6190 for more information.
by Caleb Hawkins