- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2006

A local business owner is banking on Washingtonians caring about what happens to their computer printer ink cartridges.

Rapid Refill Ink, a chain that refills and sells computer ink cartridges, opened a store in Herndon — its first in the Washington area — with plans to open 75 more by 2010.

Rapid Refill accepts used ink cartridges, then soaks them in cleaning product, refills and sells them at a reduced price.

“It’s not a guy with a syringe that runs to the back of the store,” said owner Kiran Gullapalli.

He said refilling an ink cartridge without cleaning it first — which clogs the devices — has given the concept a bad name. He hopes the new stores will change that and create a following.

“We could have had this operation out of a basement,” he said. “We didn’t want that. People did things badly before. We can confidently say things have changed.”

He’s confident that he can open 75 stores in the Washington area — concentrated at first in the area around Washington Dulles International Airport.

But Mr. Gullapalli and Rapid Refill are up against large chain office-supply stores, such as Staples and Office Depot. And only 16 percent of the population knows that they can refill ink cartridges, he admits.

He said people will be drawn to the savings. He says his prices are 40 percent to 70 percent less than chain stores’ ink cartridges and 30 percent to 50 percent less than chains’ toner costs.

Mr. Gullapalli, formerly an employee at the Environmental Protection Agency, is also hoping to reduce the 1.8 billion cartridges thrown in landfills each year.

“We walk the talk,” he said, pointing out that the store’s carpeting is made partly from recycled milk containers and that the counters are 100 percent crushed sunflower seeds.

The company, based in Springfield, Ore., began franchising in January 2004 and plans to have 150 stores throughout the country by the end of the year.

What’s hiding in your drawers?

An Ikea survey of 1,500 Washington and Baltimore residents found nearly two-thirds don’t really know what’s in their kitchen “junk drawers.”

Upon inspection, the most popular junk-drawer items were tools, batteries, matches and lighters, office supplies, candles and menus. Respondents also reported finding more interesting items, such as maps of waterparks, sushi molds, fake teeth, a live cat and a trapped mouse.

Junk drawers in the District and Baltimore had an average of $4.84 in loose change — compared with a national average of $8.91. Does that mean we keep close track of our money, or that we don’t have much in the first place?

In other news

• My Organic Market, or Mom’s, opened its fourth organic grocery store last week in the Columbia East Marketplace at Routes 1 and 175 in Columbia, Md. The local chain, founded in 1987 as an organic home-delivery service, has stores in Rockville, College Park and Alexandria. Mom’s plans to open a fifth store in Frederick, Md., early next year.

• The Shoppes at Ryan Park opened last week in Ashburn, Va., featuring a Giant Food store, Panera Bread, Natural Body Day Spa, Chipotle and the Winesmith, among other retailers.

Retail & Hospitality runs Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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