60 years battling big-box competition

Weathers TV & Appliance has survived over the decades by making continual adjustments.
Scott Weathers in front of the mural of his father, Jack Weathers (Photo: <a href="https://edmondbusiness.com/author/brent-fuchs/">Brent Fuchs</a>)

On the corner of Broadway and Main Street in Downtown Edmond, a blue awning shades the southeast corner of the intersection. The occasional pedestrian strolls down the sleepy, historic shopping district. Behind the awning is a building that Edmond residents have driven past for more than five decades. At night, you may barely notice the light from the big-screen television in its window. However, to me, it’s one of the most recognizable and beloved structures in all of Oklahoma.

This building and home of Weathers TV & Appliance is the epicenter of my father’s family story and my inspiration to become a business owner and eventual contributor to Edmond Business. It’s my family’s small business, brought into existence by my paternal grandfather in 1968.

Weathers TV & Appliance under the blue awning (Photo provided)

Now that we’ve gotten my obvious bias and affiliation out of the way, (Yes, I’m the heiress of a TV store dynasty — try to contain your excitement!) I’d like to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked about the small but mighty TV and appliance store over the years:

  • “How are they still in business?”
  • “How are they competing with big-box retailers?”
  • “How have they not gone under?”
  • And, my all-time favorite, “My (parent/grandparent) used them for years, how are they doing?”

The story begins in the mid-1950s when Jackie “Jack” C. Weathers, a young man from Edmond, Oklahoma, graduated from DeVry Technical Institute in Chicago. His goal was to learn how to fix radios and appliances and other small electronics so that he could start his own business to provide for his family. In the latter part of the decade, he found just the right opportunity. 

Over the course of 60 years, the Edmondite took a small repair operation and a box truck and grew it into one of the Oklahoma City metro’s longest-lasting and most-trusted destinations for TVs, appliances, electronics repair, and home and commercial A/V. How did he do it? I spoke with the current owner-operator and son of Jack, Scott Weathers (Yes, my very own dad) about the evolution of the company decade by decade. (With original quotes from my dad)

The timeline

A 1950s television on display at Weathers TV (Photo provided)

1959 – Jackie C. Weathers has recently graduated from DeVry Technical Institute of Illinois and is ready to get to work repairing electronics. He begins work at an Edmond appliance shop located on Broadway at what is now Around the Corner Restaurant. The owner, Don Stalter, sold TVs,  appliances, and is in need of a good repairman. TV sets were very heavy; In order to diagnose and fix them, The nature of this type of repair was done via service call.

1968 – Ready to take a leap into business ownership on his own, Jack catches wind that Paul LaMar Grocery at 2 South Broadway is looking to close its doors so that Mr. LaMar can retire. Jack worked for Mr. Lamar as a teen and maintained a friendship over the years. He approached Mr. Lamar, struck up a deal, and the building was acquired. Weathers Television & Sales was born. 

“Dad used to work for Paul back when he was a teenager, but he was talking to Paul one day, and Paul was wanted to retire. He was talking to dad about selling the building. And so they struck up a deal and bought the building in 1968.”

1970s – The showroom days: TV repair business was lucrative, which opened the door to venture into the retail side of the business. At this time, WTV employed eight technicians and subbed out work with other shops in town.

“The storefront was covered in red shag carpet, I’ll never forget that,” said Scott.

Cable TV begins expanding into bigger cities across the U.S., bringing with it the demand for more advanced video and audio technology.

“Dad slowly moved into the retail side; He opened a small showroom in the front and then started putting TVs out front, and stereos and things like that.”

1980s – Penn Square Bank folded, squeezing the Oklahoma City economy. Jack brings his newly married son Scott in to help run the retail side of the store so he can continue working on the repair side. 

“The biggest issue with the small business is financing and having capital to run your business.”

Jack Weathers at his workbench in Weathers TV (Photo provided)

1984 – Scott moves out of state to Idaho with his young family. He works for an appliance store in Boise with three locations in total. It’s here that he learns the TV and appliance business from front to back: daily operations, sales, management, and the technology trends of the time. Meanwhile, the retail side of the business back in Edmond is sold off – operations resume under new ownership.

1989 – Scott returns back to Edmond from Boise and reacquires the retail side of the business once again. High-end stereos, electronics, and home audio are major trends that coincidentally expand the business into more custom solutions for their customers. 

 1990s – The era of the big screen TVs (tube technology) is in full swing. Video Home Systems (VHS), Laser Disc, and DVD innovations bring movies directly to the home so viewers can watch at their convenience. This move revolutionized the modern home by bringing on-demand entertainment to the living room. Gone are the days of waiting for films to be replayed in theaters, and over the air — this new wave in media consumption introduces the demand for new audio/video innovations, and sales were good.

2000s – The business added commercial installations to the list of services provided; Multiple TV screens, PA systems, large A/V installations, projector-style displays are added to the menu of services they provide. They begin servicing churches and houses of worship across the state of Oklahoma. The service side begins to slow down; up to four technicians were on staff throughout this period. They also join Nationwide Buying Group in order to acquire products at a more competitive price. In 2008, the recession hits, and industry giant Circuit City closes its doors. 

2010s – Recovering from the economic recession, Scott presses onward with a diversified array of audio/video offerings. Their move into bigger projects brings them clients like Oklahoma State University (AV for the Boone-Pickens Stadium), Hobby Lobby (TVs in their employee retreat entertainment center), Stryker corporate headquarters, and churches all across the state of Oklahoma. Jack passes away in 2017 of complications from his lung health and COPD condition. Weathers TV celebrates 60 years of business, and Jack’s legacy in 2019.

Scott Weathers at Weathers TV (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

2020s – After a strong start in Q1, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down local businesses across the country. The state of Oklahoma declares a state of emergency in March, and Weathers TV is forced to shift their business operations to video consultations, phone sales, and equipping their delivery team with PPE to safely deliver appliances and A/V equipment to homes across the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. As the number of cases rises in the state, they continue to limit the number of customers in the store and clean surfaces multiple times a day. 

Takeaways

Agility

Over the course of six decades in business, Weathers TV evolved from a repair operation out of a box truck and a small rented space to a residential and commercial authority in the home and audio innovations space. In addition to the wide variety of electronics and appliances they repaired over the years, they grew their product portfolio to meet the modern trends and demands of each decade. 

Small-business pride

“I still think people that live here still enjoy the old town and small-town feel, and I think that’s why we survived and thrived,” Scott said. “If you look around at all the new businesses that are coming to Downtown Edmond — The Railyard, Urban Agrarian — those are all small businesses and you know the people are really behind them. They’re supporting local businesses.”

Diversified. yet specific portfolio of products and services 

Weathers TV has outlasted the likes of Circuit City, Ultimate Electronics, Sight & Sound, Sears (in this market), and Montgomery Ward. They have remained just specialized enough in their respective field, but haven’t strayed into other areas of retail or service that would detract from their core competency

Leveraging buying power and relationships

The move to join a buying group in the 2010s and leveraging buying power empowered the small business to manage its capital and have better control over its margins.

On January 30, 2017, in the chapel of Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City, the Weathers family laid their patriarch to rest. Today, the blue awning is still there. The delivery team is still working around the clock. Scott Weathers and Jake Hledik oversee the business on a daily basis, and the business is constantly fielding calls for sales and service regarding appliances, home theater equipment, and televisions. Innovation has forced this small company to grow, shrink, expand, specialize, and adapt to all factors of competition; Big box retailers, technological obsolescence, industry trends, buying power — you name it — but one thing has remained true at the heart of this story: Folks prefer to work with local business owners. I hope that trend remains. 

Scott Weathers in front of the mural of his father, Jack Weathers (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

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About Alyssa Weathers-Murphy

Alyssa Weathers-Murphy is the owner & founder of Siren Media, a digital marketing agency that serves the needs of small businesses, nonprofits and startups. She was raised in Edmond and attended the University of Central Oklahoma where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a major in marketing and a minor in professional selling. She attributes her interest in business and marketing to her family's small business in Downtown Edmond. She is a past president of the American Marketing Association of Oklahoma, an active member of the Oklahoma City Midtown Rotary board, and a vocal advocate for women in business and the success of small businesses.