To Hans Wetzel,
What a great article you penned! I've often fantasized about opening just such an audio shop with just the kind of gear you propose. I think it might have legs if the shop were oriented toward music and fun and situated in the right place. It needs coffee, too.
Imagine an ad something like this:
Headphone - Computer Sound - Living Room Audio
Affordable audio. Insanely awesome sound.
Bring your tunes and see. We're groovin' right now!
Naturally, the ad needs a huge graphic equating music with cool headphones and a high-tech bookshelf speaker and dancing/fun.
The shop needs big street-facing windows and a hip feel with big music-oriented art on the walls. Music must be playing! Maybe hire some people to dance during high-traffic times to draw attention. Shoot, you could probably stock some current vinyl, too.
Brad, that's not far off what I had in mind, though the dancing . . . may or may not attract the type of clientele a store like this would be catering to! As for the coffee, in an urban setting, the better bet would be to open up next to or down the street from a coffee shop. I know there are tons of people, both students and professional types, who frequent and linger in the coffee shop on the corner of my street, and I can certainly picture folks wandering from there into a hi-fi store on a nice Saturday afternoon. The same could be said for vinyl -- better to leave vinyl sales to a dedicated music shop and focus on doing one thing well. How about near art galleries, though? In Philadelphia, we have free monthly events where people litter the streets, take in all types of art, and drink decent alcohol. Not only is that the type of crowd who might have interest in a nice little stereo system, but you could also partner with local folks for events like this to demo equipment. This is to say nothing of the various types of events an urban store like this could host, with musicians and industry folks making brief presentations that are more approachable and laid back than the stodgy ones we're all used to seeing at local dealers.
Do I think this type of store would "blow up" and become insanely profitable? Nope. But I do think it could be cool and sustainable, and help to spread the good word about high-fidelity sound. As with anything else, however, the key is "location, location, location." . . . Hans Wetzel