EDISON — According to Frank Obaisi, when it comes to bottled water, what you don’t see is what you get.
Obaisi, a Nigerian immigrant who opened Water to Go, a health food/bottled water store in the Tano Mall on Amboy Avenue in December 2002, said what makes the establishment unique is its on-site 12-step water purification process.
Equally unique is Obaisi himself.
Born in Ibadan, Nigeria, he studied nuclear physics in his homeland before moving to London in 1988. While in England, he worked with the Energy Authority.
After moving to New Jersey in 1996, he got a job on Wall Street as an energy analyst. But still he wasn’t fulfilled.
"At that point, I decided to work for myself and get my hands dirty," he said. "I wanted to do something that was beneficial but made economic sense."
Along with his wife, Simi, a chemical engineer, he began looking for a business in which he could invest.
The couple decided that a franchise was the way to go.
"We went for a franchise business because you don’t have to start from scratch and things can take off quicker," he said.
After searching the Internet for franchise businesses, they came upon Water to Go.
After reading up on it and having their interest piqued, Simi hopped on a plane and headed to Las Vegas where the franchise headquarters are located.
"My wife went out first because she’s the more practical one," Frank Obaisi said. "If she came back excited, I’d know we were on to something."
Simi was duly impressed, so Frank made his way to Vegas to check things out. He, too, was impressed, but had his reservations.
"It seemed like a business that would do well on the West Coast," he said. "In the Northeast, people are more suspicious than on the West Coast."
After weighing all the options, the Obaisis decided to make the initial investment of $180,000 in a Water to Go franchise.
From the start, Frank’s wish to get his hands dirty came to pass.
"The contractor we hired disappeared shortly before work began on the store," he said.
So Frank Obaisi became his own general contractor, supervising construction and jack-hammering the floor to get the plumbing in order.
Business was slow in the beginning.
"People originally came in for vitamins and health foods," he said. "It was only after a few months that they became interested in our water."
The 12-step water purification machines are on display in the back of the store. In front of the machines is a row of faucets where the various sized bottles are filled to order.
The entire process begins with tap water. Before the water is bottled, all metals, radiation, chemicals, sediment, bacteria and other impurities are removed.
"Our water is much purer and fresher than other bottled water," Obaisi said. "No bottle has been sitting on the shelf."
To provide an illustration of the differences between his water and the common brand of store-bought bottled water, Obaisi brought out a TDS (total dissolved solids) meter. He filled the bottom of it with water from one of the taps. It registered 000. He then opened a bottle of the common brand and repeated the process. The meter read 021.
"Most bottled water companies use only three or four stages to purify their water," he claimed. "Our water is 100 times purer than tap water and many times purer than any competing bottled water."
Water to Go offers three types of water — purified, ozonated and oxygenated.
The purified product is the result of the 12-step process only. Ozonated water has ozone added.
"Ozonated water kills germs in your bloodstream and fortifies your immune system," said Obaisi.
Oxygenated water is ozonated water that contains condensed oxygen.
"This is fast becoming our most popular product," he said. "It pumps more oxygen into your blood, gives you more energy and decreases your hunger."
Obaisi’s Water to Go strives to be customer-friendly.
"We deliver to your home or office," said Obaisi. "We’ll even bring the bottles out to your car."
The store also offers coolers and crocks of all sizes.
"We’re the healthiest secret in Edison," Obaisi said.