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A Whiff of Wi-Fi

Something smells like profits in this hot-spot bakery.

A little Wi-Fi with that baguette, madame? Le Boulanger (www.leboulanger.com), a family-owned bakery in Sunnyvale, California, wanted a broadband network among its 19 Northern California stores. So it let Hotspotzz Network (www.hotspotzz.com) help pay the freight in return for making its stores "hot spots," where customers can e-mail or surf the Web wirelessly as they munch and sip.

The 18-month-old network not only garners Le Boulanger goodwill, but also about $500 in extra business per store per month, figures CFO Scott Brunello. Le Boulanger uses its Web site and the network to broadcast specials to customers via virtual coupons. The 802.11b signal can reach Wi-Fi-equipped PCs up to 300 feet from each store transceiver, and tech-oriented Silicon Valley-ites often e-mail ahead to check Wi-Fi availability before scheduling a meeting.

Hotspotzz installs and maintains the transmitters and picks up a portion of Le Boulanger's monthly DSL bill. Having that broadband connection to cash registers saves Le Boulanger managers hundreds of automobile miles weekly by using it to transfer the daily receipts and payroll reports of the far-flung business faster than ever before, says Brunello.

Hotspotzz, which can charge subscribers $20 per month, has more than 149 hot spots in U.S. city centers and is one of a half-dozen companies developing public hot spots.

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This article was originally published in the November 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Whiff of Wi-Fi.

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