By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Northborough – After over five decades, an iconic local family-owned business, Brown's TV & Appliances, will be shutting its doors at the end of January. For father Frank Jr. and sons Frank III and David, the decision to do so was difficult, but one they felt was best for their family.
Recently the three men took a few moments to reminisce about the store and what it has been like to be in the town over the years.
Frank Jr. recalled that he actually stumbled into the business of repairing televisions by happenstance. As a young father working hard to support his growing family, he often took on side jobs to supplement his regular full-time job at Wyman Gordon. When a deal fell through with an acquaintance for one part-time job, he was instead offered some old radios. That led him, he said, to take a radio and TV repair correspondence course. In 1960 he started working part-time out of his house, as well as repairing appliances for customers in their homes at nights and on weekends.
It wasn's until 1972, when Frank III graduated from Sylvania Technical High School, that the business opened full-time. The first location was over Sawyer's Bowladrome on Blake Street. When the business outgrew that space, it moved into a location in the Northborough Shopping Center and then when that space was outgrown, the store moved into its current location.
“We always ran our business during the day at the store, and then continued doing service calls at night,” Frank III said. “Good customer service has always been our trademark.”
For over 20 years, the family also had a popular video club at the Northborough store.
“We used to have so many people here renting videos,” Frank Jr. said. “Sometimes there were people three-deep waiting. It was like a meeting place for residents.”
That loyalty and friendship of Northborough's residents will be what they miss the most, the men said.
“I got to know so many people. I watched their kids grow up,” Frank Jr. said.
As the video rental industry died out, the Browns closed that portion of their business and concentrated on sales and service for television and household appliances. Their excellent customer service, they said, helped them stay successful.
But although there are many factors, they said, that contributed to the decision to close the store, there was one in particular that was especially significant – a fire set by two arsonists that destroyed Brown's and four other businesses in March 2008.
“That was a total loss for us,” Frank III said. “We never really recuperated from that.”
Also lost in that fire were many old, one-of-a-kind radios that Frank Jr. had collected over the years, and had displayed for his customers to enjoy.
A year later the store was able to re-open; unfortunately that was when the nation was deep into a recession.
That, coupled with a changing business that saw many clients purchasing items online or at big box stores, led the Browns to their decision to close.
“The last two Christmases were bad,” Frank III said. “We's have a good month here and there, but then a bad one that offset that.”
The news to shutter their business has been met with sadness from their clients, Frank Jr. said.
“People can's believe it; they hate to see another small business go,” David added. “But the business itself has changed too much for us to go on.”
The store, located at 243 W. Main St. in the Northborough Shopping Center, will probably be open until the end of January, the men said.