After three decades of planning, the $1-billion Port of Miami Tunnel opened for public use on Aug. 3. The tunnel runs 100 feet under Biscayne Bay connecting the MacArthur Causeway on Watson Island with the Port of Miami on Dodge Island. Its function is to “provide direct access between the seaport and highways I-395 and I-95,” Florida Department of Transportation states, “thus alleviating truck traffic through downtown.”
I drove the tunnel on its fourth day of operation and found it clean and efficient, borrowing lots of its style from the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City. See video at http://youtu.be/SxTUCCpk-X4. The drive takes just over a minute.
I found it odd that traffic coming from Miami Beach cannot enter the tunnel, nor can you exit toward the beach. Officials decided that hooking the westbound side of the MacArthur to the tunnel would involve too many dollars and too few vehicles.
There are no tolls to pay, but MAT Concessionaire, which operates the tunnel, gets $33 million a year from Florida. So, as they say, nothing is truly free. Our taxes will fund the $33 million annually.
Since July 26, 1986 Miguel Canda has owned and operated Batteries Plus, located in Palmetto Bay steps from Village Hall. His was the 12th franchise store and remain one of the most decorated stores among the company’s chain of 800-plus stores.
“We’ve grown a lot since the early days when we were considered to be in Cutler Ridge,” said Canda. “Hurricane Andrew was tough, but our early customers became life-long friends during those days.”
The store’s annual revenues have grown more than 10 times since then. For the past eight years, the store has topped $1.25 million in sales.
Despite being a franchise, this is really a family business. Two years ago, Canda lost his wife who ran the store with him. It was hard for everyone, but they marched on. The store currently employs six full-time people and is open seven days a week. Most have been with the store for years. Alex Vargas, a seven-year veteran is well versed in the installation of batteries in watches, cars, laptops, UPS systems, iPods and more.
“We do it all,” he says. “A watch battery change is $4.50. That’s for the battery, and expert installation comes with that.” Batteries Plus doesn’t charge for any installation work.
“Whether you are famous or not, we take care of all our customers,” says Canda. “We always want to be the reliable store, the one that is always ready to serve.”
The store caters to all types, from sports figures to TV personalities to just us regular folk.
Pinecrest resident Larry Morrison, owner of car wholesaler Morrison Motors, has been going to the store since they opened, “They are super nice people. I’m in there all the time and they always have what I need and are a good value.”
During hurricane season the store’s advice is to check your rechargeable devices and only replace as needed.
“There is no reason to buy and stock up. Batteries have expiration dates and we don’t want customers buying things too early.”
The store does see roughly 10 times the volume of sales when a hurricane approaches and a bit of a bump just before the season starts. Besides batteries, the store recently branched out into smartphone screen repair and replacement. Pricing is very aggressive and turnaround time is good. So, next time you need a battery, stop by the store that has been with us for 18 years — Batteries Plus at 17501 S. Dixie Hwy. and you can call ahead to make sure they have what you need at 305-278-8004. Somehow, I’m sure they’ll have it in stock.
REAL ESTATE UPDATE
The Pinecrest real estate market may not be red hot, but there are plenty of ways to take advantage. Interest rates are still near historic lows, the marketplace is fair to buyers and sellers and there are deals to be made.
Sell faster, sell smarter. There is nothing more important than reality as you look to buy or sell. Don’t hire a yes man. Hire a professional who will provide an honest picture and present facts when it comes to pricing.
Hal Feldman is a Realtor with RE/MAX Advance Realty and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. Contact him with your story ideas or real estate questions at www.MiamiHal.com.