In the middle of a crowded industrial park off of Route 110, there lies a special company that is making lives easier for those who are fighting some of life’s greatest challenges.
Maxi Aids is involved in the distribution of products for people who suffer from a variety of disabilities, including many physical and cognitive ailments such as blindness, deafness, Alzheimer’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, and many others.
According to Maxi Aids President and Founder Elliot Zaretsky, his company possesses anything a handicapped person might need to take back control of their lives.
“No matter what their disability, we try to find a product for them that will help them be independent,” he said. “Anything that we sell helps them to have an easier life, to be able to work, to live an independent life.”
Maxi Aids sells directly to consumers through their print catalog and the internet via their website; they also sell to wholesalers, distributors, government agencies, and schools.
Zaretsky, who had previously owned a chain of pharmacies, started Maxi Aids in 1986 when he developed a personal stake in helping the disabled.
“I have a son who’s deaf,” he said. “One day, I was sitting at an airport with my wife, and a deaf person was selling pencils. My wife started crying and asked if that was going to happen to our son...it was then that I decided that I would find something for him to do.”
Thinking long and hard for a solution, Zaretsky finally decided on starting a health care product business out of the basement of one of his pharmacies; eventually, he branched out into products for the blind, deaf, and mobility-impaired. Within four years, the business far grew beyond the confines of the basement it had started in.
Zaretsky eventually purchased a building in Farmingdale which currently houses two 10,000 square-foot warehouses, a showroom, and offices. From there, Maxi Aids has become the largest company of their type in the world.
“At the present time, we have over 8,000 items for the challenged,” he said. “We sell everything from sewing needles and reding machines to computers, calculators, and clocks that speak. We have a tremendous selection of products to help make a person self-sufficient.”
While many businesses are fighting against a tough national economy, Zaretsky notes that, while cuts to school aid have a trickle-down effect on his overall business, the products Maxi Aids deals in are essential to everyday living for many people.
“Generally speaking, we’re not affected by the recession,” he said. “Our products are needed...they’re not luxury items like perfume or a pretty dress...these are products that help people live normal lives, get a job.”
Maxi Aids takes their approach to helping the disabled to heart, as many members of their work force count themselves among their numbers. Maxi Aids currently employs workers who are deaf, blind, and autistic.
“We were just given an award by the Helen Keller Institute for the work that we’ve done hiring deaf and blind people,” said Larry DiBlasi, Maxi Aids’ Executive Director of Operations. “We have a job training workshop here that they bring their students to, and we even hire some of their students.”
Many of the disabled workers at Maxi Aids use the company’s products to do their day-to-day work assignments; in fact, these workers actively test the products and help to train customer service members on how to use them.
“We’re a company that stands behind out products, and the people that use them,” said DiBlasi. “Plus, a lot of our items are bought by non-disabled people, such as talking microwaves, as gadget items to make life easier.”
Alphonse McFadden, a Tech Sales and Support representative at Maxi Aids, is completely blind. Yet, thanks to the company’s products, he is able to make the trip to work from the Bronx every day, do his job, and live a normal life.
“The products help me tremendously,” he said. “In addition to helping me complete my tasks here at work successfully, they help with reading at home, talking watches so I know the time, and cooking so I don’t burn my apartment down. Their products help me very much.”
Zaretsky said that the numerous stories he hears from customers about how Maxi Aids essentially gave them their lives back makes all the hard work worth it.
“I get the greatest satisfaction out of helping people take care of themselves,” he said. “I fact, at my age, that’s the reason why I’m still working...because I love what I’m doing. I feel that I’ve done something good in the world.”