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2012 Hall of Fame: Bob Cole

Bob Cole, World Wide Stereo

January 2012 By Jeff O'Heir
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If the folks behind Dos Equis' "World's Most Interesting Man" campaigns ever need a replacement for the actor Jonathan Goldsmith, they need look no further than Bob Cole. With his combed-back hair, grey beard and mustache, Cole not only looks the part, but his background makes him a real-life shoe-in.

He started out as a psychiatrist and is a skilled dog whisperer (really). An accomplished sailor, he once captained his sailboat safely through a deadly Bermuda storm. He used to fly a broken-down plane below the Pennsylvania air-traffic radar to a field in New Jersey to pick up the first shipments of sought-after video games. He ran a jackhammer on a road crew while the Newark riots raged during the summer of '67. He's a musician, a motorcyclist and a downhill skier.

There's undoubtedly a long list of other feats, accomplishments and curious facts that could give the copywriters plenty of fodder. But, perhaps, the most impressive is that Bob and Ron's World Wide Stereo, the Pennsylvania-based specialty CE retailer and custom integrator Cole founded 33 years ago (and has run with a lot of help from his wife, Karen), is still going strong. With showrooms in Montgomeryville and Ardmore, a corporate office and outlet center in Hatfield, and an e-commerce site that is held up as a benchmark among independent retailers, Cole and his company have long been considered among the CE industry's brightest stars.

"Bob has been a business innovator who has changed with the times to reinvent his business from a traditional hi-fi house to a custom integrator to transacting online," said Jim Ristow, executive vice president of Home Entertainment Source, the buying group that Cole has played an integral role in since it began. "Where the business has gone, Bob has gone."

The key behind Cole's success is a combination of many simple philosophies that make up a strong businessman, a respected industry leader and an all-around good guy.

The foundation of all that, Cole said, stems "a crazy work ethic" he inherited from the large Italian family he grew with up in Rumson, N.J. The mantra among them was simply "to get shit done," no matter what it takes, Cole said. Back then he spent a lot of time working at the specialty grocery store owned by his godfather, who successfully competed against the big chains like A&P by giving customers the products and services they couldn't get elsewhere. "It's all about service," Cole said from his Hatfield office.


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