Tuffy Robards is an Alaskan retailer whose ship has come in, quite literally, more than once. Born and raised in the small community of Sitka (pop. 8,500), Robards grew up with an understanding that good retail strategy meant wooing both the passengers and crew members of visiting cruise ships.
“Sitka’s one of the smaller ports. We don’t even have a dock, but they use rescue boats to bring people in,” says Robards, whose Stereo North store sits just 500 feet from the ocean. “Crew members are actually very loyal customers. When the crew isn’t working, they have to stay below deck, so we sell them MP3 players and laptops and all sorts of adaptors.”
Robards started Stereo North back in 1983, when he was just 20 years old and already a CE veteran. “I went to work on the sales floor of a competitor when I was 11,” he says. “At 13, I was a buyer. My family has always been in business...my mom and dad bought a third of the company back then and still work with me today.”