By Daniel J. Stout
Crown TV & Records has been a trusted name in stereo and television repair in Deerfield Beach since 1967. From its Hillsboro Square exterior, placed comfortably in a small building housing Michael's Haircutters and the award-winning Charm City Burger Co., it would appear to be there for just that.
But for the past two years, the store has been one divided. The rear section is still a busy workshop dedicated to doing what Crown has been doing since its inception: servicing TVs, stereo systems, and most recently guitar amplifiers. While in the front area, one can treat oneself to an array of collectibles: T-shirts, turntables, and, most important, vinyl records. The items may be perused at leisure while listening to the consistent stream of high-fidelity rock 'n' roll. The whole assemblage has a purveying sense of nostalgia for a time before iPhones, Androids, Amazon, and eBay.
Nestled in with the Adam West camp-era Batman toys, Bob Marley shirts, and various other pop-cultural paraphernalia are the new records, still in the plastic, ranging from Katy Perry's One of the Boys to a Soundgarden ten-inch singles box. Below those are the bins of older records of jazz, soul, country, and rock.
In fact, Crown is a classic-rock store. There is a row of alphabetized bins along one wall containing records weeded out for the highest-quality available: Pat Benatar, Black Flag, Electric Light Orchestra, and others of that sort fill these. They are in exceptional, unblemished condition, though, as the owner would gladly explain, none of them is in "mint condition." They are instead tagged as "good quality" or "high quality."
The other bins around the store are marked as $1.50 or $3.50 and include a much larger spectrum. The attention to selection here is noticeably a labor of love. I had a chance to speak with Crown's proprietor, the highly amenable Gene Tamburri, about his shop, its history, and his own confusion regarding the lack of Van Halen sales.
New Times: How did you get started with the TV repair side of the business?
Gene Tamburri: Actually, I didn't. It was a previous owner back in 1967. The shop's been here. Then I came in in 1991, and I've pretty much been here ever since.
Did you have a history in electronics repair coming into it?
Not so much in the repair but in the service, as far as installation and setup. Because I worked for other electronics companies.
Do you find it difficult to compete with big chains?
As far as repair, there's not really competition. Most customers will go to a repair shop. I'll ask them about it, and they say, "Oh I called them, dealt with them. They give me the runaround." I don't like to baby-sit anything. I want to get it in and get it out without rushing anything.
What made you move from being solely a repair shop to one that sells records?
Well, it was a friend of mine. He was interested in becoming a vendor, and he more or less had his main job, and it didn't work out. So I kept it going, and here we are. It's been two years now.
Has the record side grown since you started it?
Absolutely. It's been a little quiet now with the season and the economy. But during the season and actually all through most of the summer, it had a nice steady flow. Just recently... I noticed since school started, things started going down.
Have you found that the two sides of the business compete with each other at all?
They actually work together because we now do guitar amps. So since we're doing that, people come in. As well as me selling turntables. We sell new turntables as well as reconditioned turntables. So it's kind of gelled together as one. It's worked out great. And my repair customers come in, while they're getting their televisions or electronics written up for repairs, they come in here, they check out the records. If they have a turntable, they'll purchase records. If not, they'll look at the CDs.
How do you acquire your stock?
I have a few private people from around the country that get them for me. It's better that way because they're records that are the originals, not the remasters. The remasters you can pretty much get anywhere. With the original albums, they're harder to get in very good condition. I don't like to use the terms "mint" or "near mint." A lot of places may use that, but I won't, because once it's out of the album sleeve, it's not really mint anymore.
Why do you think vinyl records have become so popular again?
The only thing I can think of is because of what I see. I see from 12-year-olds into their 30s, they're the age group that missed out on when vinyl records were out. Maybe they just find it new and different, or maybe everyone's so tired of that iPod, everything just being cold and sterile like your phone that, instead, it's something mechanical, and they're actually listening and feeling it. You know?
What is your personal favorite record?
The first thing that comes to mind would be Who's Next. That's always been one of my favorite albums. It's very dynamic. Just dynamic with the way it was written. Pete Townshend did a great job. Keith Moon, the way he fills in. He's an amazing drummer, for somebody they used to joke about. If you ever listen to the album, you'll know what I'm talking about. It stood the test of time with me.
Is there an artist or record that you thought would sell more than it has?
It's funny you say that. Not to take away from Van Halen, but I had these Van Halens in here, and they didn't seem to move. I get these young folks in, they'll ask for Hendrix, even Stevie Ray Vaughan, any great guitar player. They seem to over look Van Halen for some reason. Eddie Van Halen was a pioneer in that new sound. You know? Once in a blue moon. Just the other day, I got to talk to someone who was in here to grab one of the albums. He says, "I can't understand it either. I love Van Halen. But the majority of the young people just don't come in asking for it.
How did the sale of collectables come about?
The reason that got started is since we were just a repair shop, before this happened, I had my collectables on the back shelf here. So everyone always came in saying, "Is this for sale? Is that for sale?" So I figured, once we started doing the records, I said, "Well what else can I do to make it a little more complete?"
I remember concert T-shirts and rock band T-shirts. Since they were asking for collectables, I figured, let me bring some collectables in. After the first holiday, around Christmas and Chanukah, that was it.
Stop in and get yourself a copy of Nevermind or a signed Yellow Submarine-era Beatles print. Have a chat with Mr. Tamburri. When you're done, you can grab a delicious burger next door. Crown TV & Records is located at 1140 E. Hillsboro Blvd., Deerfield Beach.
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