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Lafayette Radio was a radio manufacturer and retailer based in Syosset, New York. The company sold radio sets, amateur radio equipment, citizen's band (CB) radios, and other communications equipment, as well as electronic components and tools through retail outlets as well as by mail-order.

Uppercase letters and a picture of Marquis de Lafayette were commonly used as Lafayette's logo through the 1960s and '70s

Contents

History

Established in the 1920s, Lafayette Radio Electronics (LRE) became a thriving mail-order catalog business; the electronic components it sold were a boon to amateur radio operators and electronic hobbyists in areas where such components were not available in local retail outlets. Lafayette's main competitors were Radio Shack, Allied Radio, Heathkit, and "mom and pop" (independent) radio dealers throughout the United States.

Lafayette Radio had stores in both Jamaica, N.Y., and in Manhattan, N.Y. in the mid-1950s and these were probably the first two retail stores in the company's history. The electronics kits were produced in the Jamaica facility.

Lafayette advertised heavily in major U.S. consumer electronics magazines of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly Stereo Review, High Fidelity, Audio, Popular Mechanics, and Popular Electronics, among others. The company offered a free 400-page catalog filled with descriptions of vast quantities of electronic gear, including microphones, tape recorders, speakers, and other components that could be obtained for free by mailing in a coupon. [1]

Retail stores

Until the 1960s, many independent retailers in some markets became Lafayette Radio "Associate Stores", which were displaced when the company expanded. These stores were supported from headquarters at 111 Jericho Turnpike in Syosset, NY and a warehouse in Hauppauge, NY. A limited selection of product was stocked, with full access to a catalog with a wide variety of parts, tubes, cameras, musical instruments, kits, gadgets and branded gear that could be ordered and delivered through the local store. The company made major investments in what were called sound rooms to demonstrate hi-fi equipment, using custom switch panels and acoustic treatments in an attempt to duplicate a home listening environment and offer fair comparison with an assortment of branded hi-fi gear.

Managers were rewarded for maximizing gross profit margins and inventory "turns", which led to frequent out-of-stock situations, often remedied by frequent cross-town inter-store transfers. Each store had a repair shop on site with a part-time technician. Stores ranged in size from 2000 to 5,000 square feet (460 m2).

By the late 1970s, Lafayette expanded to major markets across the country, struggling to compete with Radio Shack, which had purchased rival Allied Electronics around 1970. Lafayette ran into major financial difficulty when the FCC authorized a new Citizens Band ("CB") spectrum with 40 channels. Lafayette's buyers had firm commitments to accept delivery of thousands of the older design units, and were not able to liquidate the inventory without taking a serious loss. Eventually, all of the old CB radios were sold for under $40. [1]

With fewer than 100 stores, far fewer than the aggressively expanding Radio Shack's thousands of local outlets, Lafayette Radio remained more of a dedicated enthusiasts' store than a mass marketer. The company was also hurt by the advent of electronics retailers relying on aggressive marketing techniques and competitive pricing in the late 1970s. Many experienced managers departed. Formerly a national chain, the remaining Lafayette stores in the state of New York closed by the end of 1981.

Some local Lafayette stores remained open until 1981. For example, the Long Branch, New Jersey, store finally closed in the Fall of 1981. Unsold inventory was literally shovelled into dumpsters overnight to vacate the store. One store in the Trenton, NJ area went on independently to become known as "Laraco Electronics". Laraco had one retail location that served the area on Business Route 1 in Lawrenceville, NJ until its closing in late 2002.

Several Lafayette stores were purchased by Circuit City of Richmond, VA. In order to keep the Lafayette name, which was popular in New York, Circuit City changed the store names to "Lafayette-Circuit City". However, these store locations were much smaller than a standard Circuit City, and did not carry major appliances, which Circuit City carried at the time. The stores were eventually closed as Circuit City left the New York Market (only to return later). The Syosset repair center was kept open a year after the last store closing to handle warranty coverage. Lafayette-Circuit City used the phrase "no haggling" in its ad campaign, which featured celebrities such as Don King, in trying to demonstrate that the lowest price was always posted, unlike many competitors in where you would have to bargain with the sales person for a lower price. This approach, however, did not work, and Lafayette-Circuit City fell due to competition from other New York area electronic retailers such as Newmark and Lewis, Trader Horn, The Wiz, Crazy Eddie and PC Richard.

As of 2003, the Lafayette brand name was re-launched at the CES show that year. Their products are only offered through special dealers and limited retail stores. [2]

Products

Most of Lafayette's products ranged from stereos to two-way radios for Hams and CBers, and shortwave listeners. Many were dedicated types with special functions, such as VHF receivers for police and fire channels built into a CB radio. A complete model line included many models and brand names to choose from for just about any purpose, as opposed to just a few. The product line also covered other manufacturers' products through seasonal catalogs. The company's best selling products were often shortwave receivers, parts, and portable radios. In the 1960s, most Lafayette brand radios were rebranded Trio-Kenwood sets, which were of moderate performance and build quality. A significant share of 60's and 70's vintage Lafayette hi-fi gear was manufactured by a Japanese subcontractor named "Planet Research". "Criterion" brand speakers were built by several offshore and some domestic assemblers. Science kits were popular. One product of interest from Lafayette Radio Corporation was a small Atom Smasher (van de Graaff generator), Model F-371. The address for this product was listed as 165-08 Liberty Ave., Jamaica 33, N.Y., which is now a Storage Plus location but was once the site of a major Lafayette outlet.

While the catalog heavily-promoted their own branded products, Lafayette also carried models from many other hi-fi manufacturers of the era, including Marantz, Fisher, Pioneer, AR, Dynaco, KLH, Wharfedale, Bozak, BIC, Garrard, Dual, TEAC, Akai, Shure, Pickering, Electro-Voice, JVC, Panasonic, Sony and others. The catalogs and advertising helped promote the concept of high-fidelity sound to customers, some of whom lived many miles away from major electronics stores, during a time when only the largest urban areas had dedicated "stereo" stores. Lafayette also offered TV vacuum tube testing, for customers who wanted to service their own televisions.

Lafayette was quick to jump on industry trends, embracing first open reel tape recorders and later 8-track cartridge recorders and compact cassette recorders, along with an amazing array of gimmicks, supplies, and accessories. During the mid-1970s, the company was one of few places one could actually experience four channel ("quadraphonic") sound. However the lack of a single industry standard (Columbia SQ vs. JVC's CD-4 and Sansui's QS) dampened sales, and the experiment ended in 1976.

Lafayette also sold a variety of electronic musical equipment made by different manufacturers. There were solid-body and hollow-body electric guitars, probably made by Teisco or Harmony. Microphones, amplifiers, and various electronic effects such as reverbs were available. One of the most famous effects that Lafayette sold was the Uni-Vibe, used by many musicians, most notably Jimi Hendrix. Robin Trower, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others later used the effect to emulate Hendrix's sounds and achieve new ones of their own.

Store locations

Lafayette retail store locations according to catalog listing.[3]

CT: W. Hartford, Stamford (later, Trim Fashions, now CVS), Hamden, Bridgeport, Enfield, Manchester, Torrington

CA: Hawthorne, Canoga Park, Carson, Cerritos, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Inglewood, Long Beach, North Hollywood, Northridge, Orange, Panorama City, Santa Monica, Studio City, Torrance, West Covina, Whittier

DE: Wilmington

FL: Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville

GA: Atlanta/Buckhead, Decatur, Dunwoody, Forest Park

IN: Indianapolis (4 Locations)

IL: Chicago metro area (Chicago, Ford City, New Town), Arlington Heights, Evergreen Park, Morton Grove, Norridge, Schaumburg, Villa Park

MA: Boston metro area (Prudential Center, Brookline), Worcester, Burlington, Danvers, Saugus, Natick, West Roxbury/Dedham

MD: Baltimore metro area, Prince Georges County (Queenstown/Hyattsville), Dundalk, Glen Burnie, Marlow Heights, Rockville, Towson

MI: Store #1 on Broadway Ave in Detroit (aka Barton Electronics), Store #2 on Maple in downtown Birmingham (store was lost due to fire), Store #3 on Plymouth Road in Livonia (aka Robbie), Store #4 on Van Dyke in Sterling Heights, Store #5 Ann Arbor, Store #6 Kalamazoo (aka Kaltronics), <<10721 West 10 Mile Oak Park - Main Office, Warehouse and Store #7 (aka Eric)>>, Store #8 Trenton, Store #9 Farmington (aka Nancy), Store #10 Grand Rapids, Store #11 on Gratiot in Roseville, Store #12 on M59 in Waterford, Store #14 in Lansing. Two other nicknames for stores are Neutronics and Pentronics just not sure which ones. All of these were part of Eric Electroncis dba Lafayette Radio

MN: Brooklyn Center, Edina, Roseville

MO: St. Louis (Bridgeton, Crestwood, Jenkins)

NJ: Paramus, Pennsauken, East Brunswick, Newark, Parsippany, Watchung, Totowa, Union

NY: NYC, Buffalo (Main Street near Tupper St, Amherst, West Seneca, Eastern Hills), Rochester (Irondequoit, Greece, Pittsford), Syracuse (E.Syracuse) Hempstead, Franklin Ave. Syosset, Jericho Tpke., Flushing

OH: Cleveland (Parma Heights, North Olmstead, Mentor, Warrensville Heights), Toledo, Columbus, Cincinnati

PA: Pittsburgh (Bridgeville/Collier, Monroeville, North Hills, Pleasant Hills), Lancaster, Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Oxford Valley/Langhorne

RI: Providence, Warwick

TN: Nashville

TX: Tyler (closed 1980)

VA: Richmond (in 6600 block of Midlothian Turnpike), Falls Church

WI: Milwaukee (Bay Shore, Greenfield, Wauwatosa)

See also

References

  1. ^ a b http://www.radiomuseum.org/dsp_hersteller_detail.cfm?company_id=734 History Of Lafayette Radio Corp, The Radio Museum
  2. ^ http://www.lafayetteelectronics.com
  3. ^ Lafayette Radio Electronics Catalog, 1977

External links

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