Contacts: Tom Fitzpatrick, System Designer for Stereo Advantage (Buffalo, NY)

When his boss suggested opening a cafe in the store, Tom Fitzpatrick, a long-time salesperson and system designer at Stereo Advantage in Buffalo, NY, was skeptical. “I was like, are you kidding me? All I could picture was people spilling coffee on the TV’s. Liquid and electronics don’t mix! But now I get it, it’s actually really great,” says Fitzpatrick, who, in his 22 years at the store, has embraced a myriad of changes in sales strategy. So, when the boss suggested obtaining a liquor license (just beer and wine) at that in-store cafe, Fitzpatrick was on board immediately. “That’s how we get through our day!” he jokes.

“Look, people come in her and spend 5-7 thousand bucks. That’s a lot of money for people in Buffalo,” says Fitzpatrick. “Everything’s going up except people’s salaries. But we’re working hard here and we’re staying afloat in this thing. We’ve got a chance every time people come in. You keep ‘em in here until they want to leave, until they can’t take it anymore, you showed them so much cool, and you got them something to drink. It’s all service.”

Fitzpatrick has taken that sort of service off the store floor and into people’s homes over the last two years (not the booze, just the personal attention), showing customers how to turn ho-hum rooms into home theater showcases on all sorts of budgets. “There’s this look on a face of someone after you a do an installation and you crank it up. They get this Christmas morning look,” he says.

Flexing with the surge of install business means Fitzpatrick, who’s known as something of a TV expert in Buffalo, spends only about 50% of his time on the store floor these days. He says he’s willing to keep adjusting his working style to the marketplace, no matter what happens. “The gas prices are high, and we’ve seen this surge in people staying home, but they come in and buy nice equipment….I tell them, ‘Thank you for helping me try to take Wal-Mart down. I appreciate that.’”

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