Re-Tales #39: Channel Separation

Before and since the pandemic, many traditional hi-fi dealerships evolved to expand the products and services they offer—into custom install and home integration, in particular. There has also been a bit of a multichannel/home theater resurgence.

Shifts in the market and personal interests led to changes at Adirondack Audio & Video, an established company with locations in upstate New York and—as HiFi Loft—in Manhattan. The company recently split into two separate entities. Under new ownership by a former partner/employee, just before Labor Day, 2023, HiFi Loft spun off from Adirondack and opened a new second location in Glens Falls, New York, about 45 minutes north of Albany. By all accounts, the separation was amicable, even favorable for each party.

Michael Timko founded Adirondack Audio & Video in 2008 in Queensbury, New York, with a customer-turned-investor partner. Over time, the store moved to a different Queensbury storefront just up the road. Timko bought out his former partner, who had decided to pursue other interests, and later brought on a few smaller partner-investors including Adirondack employee Jason Tavares in 2010. Adirondack then expanded, opening a Manhattan location called the HiFi Loft. That name spoke volumes: Not only did "loft" evoke the more urban location; "hifi" signified the new location's focus on old-school, component-based two-channel audio. Adirondack had long been involved in commercial AV, custom installation, and integration, working with builders, architects, and designers, while hi-fi was Tavares's main interest. In time, he was the only one at Adirondack focused on two-channel audio; the rest were focused on custom installation.

Both sides of the company—CI and two-channel retail—were going strong after COVID, Tavares told me: "We were doing well, [each] in a position to be going separate ways. The hi-fi part of the operation had taken on a life of its own. The two sides didn't share much except a common bank account." He and his partners decided that, instead of competing for the same resources, they'd operate as separate businesses while referring customers to each another based on individual wants and needs.

Timko described the situation in a similar way. "We just reached a point where we said, 'Okay, we don't think we want to pursue hi-fi anymore as a company,'" Timko told me. "And Jason said, 'Well, I love hi-fi, what am I going to do?'" Timko suggested talking through it. Tavares proposed that Timko and the other partners buy him out and let him run with the hi-fi portion of the business with HiFi Loft, freeing them up to focus on CI. And that is what they did. "It's a win-win for everybody," Timko said.

The decision made good business sense. As planned, each refers customers to the other; a few home-automation brands appear among the hi-fi companies listed on HiFi Loft's website. Tavares continues to pursue his two-channel business across two locations: the existing HiFi Loft in NYC's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, which he is retaining, and the new one in Glens Falls.

Tavares sees the Glens Falls store as a special opportunity. "I could design a whole new space up north, in my vision of what I'd imagine a great hi-fi store to be like," he said.

It also offers a chance to take advantage of the new space, which has a unique history. The Glens Falls store is in a circa-1930s building of approximately 2400ft2. In the 1970s, another retailer, Glens Falls Business Machines, remodeled the space with wood paneling—popular décor at the time. It was in good condition and gave a nod to the classic hi-fi era, so Tavares kept it more or less intact. He described the showroom as a large room with a high ceiling and big windows. In addition to equipment, the store sells new and used vinyl records, which "has been a draw for people." Plus, the Glens Falls store is a better location than densely populated NYC to receive shipments and store inventory.

Tavares moves between the two locations—it's about a three-hour drive—but each store has its own sales manager. Tavares hired Mike Deutsch, a former employee of Lyric Hi-Fi, who'd worked there for 17 years until it closed in 2021, as full-time sales manager for the Manhattan store, which has a street-level entrance and is, in Tavares's words, "a very stately affair." The Glens Falls location is "more a celebration of music."

It's also a place where he hopes to educate a new generation on the possibilities for hi-fi playback. "I'm attracting a younger clientele up north—local people who love music who don't yet have what you'd call hi-fi," he said. "Many are transitioning from Sonos, for instance, into a real hi-fi system." Some people have come into the Glens Falls store who are already collecting records but don't yet have equipment to play them on. Tavares is also considering hosting listening events at the upstate store, possibly including album-release parties; some local bands have approached him about this.

He carries different products between the two locations—though there's some overlap. "I focus more on the more affordable stuff up north and my higher-end stuff in Manhattan," Tavares said. Both stores carry McIntosh, Triangle, and Electrocompaniet. The Manhattan store stocks Boulder and MSB Technology among other brands. But he's always taking gear back and forth, he said. "If someone's in the city and wants an NAD, I can get that to them."

Tavares encourages people to come into the store even if they don't have the budget for a full-blown hi-fi system. "Even if you come in with the smallest budget, you get the royal treatment," he said. "We're completely welcoming here.

bhkat's picture

Wishing both companies ongoing success.

Anton's picture

Long live brick and mortar!!

Glotz's picture

Blessings to rock 2024 with great customers and great sales.

I recognize that 'table that Art reviewed back in the day, no?

MFK's picture

"Both sides of the company—CI and two-channel retail—were going strong after COVID..." The pandemic is over, really?

funambulistic's picture

The headline says it all. Stop existing in fear: take off the mask, go outside, get some sun, feel the grass on your bare feet, talk to a neighbor, live. And, while you're at it, put on a record or two...

Anton's picture

Hopefully, you are able to figure out what they meant.

funambulistic's picture

... when I realized the article was about building a listening room!

barfle's picture

I only wish there were a similar store near me (but I’m in the sticks).