Kadair’s at 65 . . . and Still Counting

Kadair’s at 65 . . . and Still Counting

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Up to a certain point, the Kadair story follows a traditional storyline: in 1946 a home garage is converted into a wholesale finishing lab to process film from local drugstores; then a retail store is opened in Baton Rouge to add walk-in traffic for cameras, lenses and photo supplies. Then a second store is opened—and here the story takes a significant turn.

Because the second store is located a block from the main campus of Louisiana State University, Sam Kadair starts to stock records—you know, those circular music discs that came before hard drives, CDs and DVDs. “He felt they’d be a natural magnet for students,” says Howard Kadair, Sam’s son and owner of Kadair’s. “The students loved music and he felt that along with cameras, they’d be a good draw.” Pretty soon Sam added stereo components, then TV sets.

And there you have half the formula for the success of Kadair’s, which this year marks its 65th anniversary. Simply, Sam Kadair could read his market.

So can Howard, who has continued to add consumer electronics, and the services to install and configure all the components, to the stores’ mix. “When you [decide to] market something you’re not branded for—we were branded for cameras and then went into the record business and then into electronics—you have to brand yourself through advertising and marketing. It takes a lot of energy. It’s a commitment.”

The other half of the formula is fundamental and constant: customer service and close ties to the community. “People today are becoming accustomed to the type of service they get at big-box stores,” Howard Kadair says, “so the kind of good service they get in a specialty store is one of the most important things you can offer. It builds relationships, and when you build relationships with people, [they] refer their relatives and friends to you. The real foundation of any business that lasts for generations is relationship building with customers. Independent businesses are built by word of mouth.”

Today Kadair’s sells and custom installs home theater, media room and audio-visual equipment and offers a complete lineup of imaging gear and services. And this year, something new on the electronics side of the business: “We’ve just entered the home automation business with a system that controls everything—home entertainment, lighting, security, heating and air conditioning,” Kadair says. “You can control it all from your iPhone or iPad, and we install it, program it and teach people how to use it.”

At Kadair’s, imaging and audio-visual not only coexist, they support each other. “My dad had the foresight to see that the two businesses would feed off each other, that there was a common interest among a lot of customers. Many of them who enjoyed cameras, also enjoyed good home entertainment. And he saw that if times were bad
for one side, the other side could support and keep the business going.”

While he’s quick to acknowledge his dad’s foresight and the energy, innovation and dedication of the current managers and staff, Howard Kadair also credits another factor for Kadair’s success. “What’s been so important to us over the years has been our membership in PRO,” he says. “Those are the brightest minds in this industry, and the networking and information highway available to us at PRO conventions was invaluable.” Sharing information and ideas, he suggests, went a long way toward helping Kadair’s see the future coming and make the necessary changes. “We’ve be in the PRO group over four decades,” he adds, “and in addition to the networking and the great information, PRO gives us great buying power.” He also cites the quality of PRO brand products: “They are our own brand—that’s how I look at it. With them we have our own product line, and we made that brand very special in our stores.”

Kadair’s is marking 65 years with a “65 days of savings” anniversary celebration. And the beat goes on.

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