When Mike Anderson of Plymouth needed 25 feet of Cat-5e network cable to connect a router to a Blu-ray player last week, he shopped around.
BestBuy.com wanted $26.99 for its Dynex private label, but Anderson found the equivalent cable for $3.03 at MyCableMart.com, an Eden Prairie-based company. "That's about an 800 percent difference," he said.
For audio-videophiles like Anderson, My Cable Mart has been a low-cost source for HDMI cables, TV mounts and wall plates since 2009.
Now Twin Cities customers can also peruse hundreds of items in the company's inventory in a retail store that owner Neil Marriott opened this month.
Unlike most companies that start with a bricks-and-mortar store and add a website later, My Cable Mart did the reverse.
Part of the reason for the retail expansion is the large number of Twin Cities customers who were already picking up orders at the warehouse to save on shipping costs. About 10 percent of the company's $4.5 million in 2012 revenue came from the Twin Cities, Marriott said. "Now we hope it will be even more," he said.
The former software developer started the business as a hobby from his spare bedroom in 2007 when he started helping friends with their own connectivity needs. "After you buy all the components, we're here to help you hook everything up. We're selling the gravy."
The company sells 1,800 different items, although 70 percent of the sales are HDMI cables. More than one-third of the inventory will be on display in the store, but all 1,800 items are available for pickup at the store.
Marriott said that while Best Buy and Monoprice.com are longtime competitors, the market has changed. Now Lowe's, Home Depot, Menards, Target and Wal-Mart are selling cables, too. Still, he claims that 99 percent of his products are priced below those at retail stores.
For Jackie Ruhland, purchasing manager at Alpha Video in Edina, My Cable Mart offers competitive pricing, but its quality products and availability are just as important to her company.
"They're very resourceful and almost always have items in stock," said Ruhland, whose company has installed video networking and Jumbotrons at stadiums for the Minnesota Twins, University of Minnesota, Miami Marlins and Utah Jazz.
Despite the fact that the cable company sells hundreds of HDMI cables, insiders such as CNET.com generally recommend cutting through the clutter by choosing HDMI cable labeled as "high-speed cable with Ethernet capability."
That's true, Marriott said, but the guy who just spent $20,000 on a state-of-the-art TV and sound-and-video system would often rather spend $27 on a cable with more bells and whistles than a $6 one.
"Both will produce the same picture even though the $27 cable has twice the capability," he said.
Do the electronic devices need the fancier cable? Probably not, unless the consumer is trying to anticipate future technology needs. "I have the $6 one myself," Marriott said.
Still, the company carries the higher-grade cables for customers who want them. "We don't try to upsell the customer, but if that's what they want, we have it available for them," he said.
Overall, it's a niche product company. "If enough customers tell us they're looking for an item that we don't stock, we search worldwide to find it," he said.