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Closing St. Clair Audio Video “bittersweet”, says Martin

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 12:04 -- Chris Cooke
Grev Martin

Bittersweet.

That’s how Greville Martin describes his decision to close St. Clair Audio Video, the specialty electronics store he has owned since 1983. The London Road store will close at the end of this month opening the door for Martin to retire.

“I’m 70, not 30 and the time has come to move on to the next phase on my life,” he told First Monday.

Martin has tried for more than a year to sell the business but there weren’t any takers. “It is a good business but it requires a passionate leader in a changing market”.

Martin says he doesn’t have enough time left to make a major investment and recoup it.

Since 1983 he has reinvented St. Clair Audio Video four times. He started out in a small storefront on Front Street. “Back then we were specialists in audio video sales and the business was in its infancy”.

As the big box stores moved in on his market Martin moved. He moved into car audio and cell phones and moved the business to a plaza on Confederation Street.

Then in 2004 he moved again to his current location on London Road east of Lambton Mall.

He moved into big screen televisions, whole home audio and consultation. And he centred the business on innovative technology and specialization. “We became integration specialists,” says Martin.

And his best years came in the midst of the 2008  - 2009 recession. Sales topped $2 million as cash strapped homebuyers turned their focus to home renovations. “We were the go to people to provide hardware, software and advice”.

Since then competition has become more intense and the economy remains sluggish and Martin says the business continues to evolve.

“We are becoming a showroom for internet providers like Amazon”. To be relevant Martin says he needs a smaller footprint and a showroom for display purposes only.

“The key is to reduce overhead, build relationships with customers and be consultants. We are more like a trade only audio video”.

Martin says retirement was a last case scenario.

His six employees didn’t want to make a major investment, the industry is very competitive and needs a younger passionate owner willing to adapt and reinvest.

At his age Martin says he wants to protect his retirement. “I don’t like golf but I’m moving on to my next adventure whatever that may be”.

In the meantime he says he will spend more time with family and friends and give back to the community with volunteer work.

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