Radio Shack Store #5603, New Minas, Nova Scotia, my Memoir of working there in the 70’s

Authors experiences History

I enjoyed my decade long career with Radio Shack in the 70’s.  I started as a sales clerk in a regular store #5603 in New Minas, Nova Scotia around 1975 as I was finishing high school.  This progressed into me becoming the first manager of the Tandy Computer Center in Halifax in 1980, until about 1985.

Ken Kristiansen
Greg Griffin
Rob 1983

It was pretty natural for me to become a salesperson at that store, because I had been buying electronics from them for much of my teen years, and come to know the staff there as a regular customer.  The store manager was Ken Kristiansen, and his main sales person was Frank D’Argent, plus Greg Griffin (Brother of my schoolmate Leonard).  Ken and his wife Martha owned the store as a “joint venture” (JV) company with Radio Shack.  This means that they purchased the franchise name, and ran it as an independent business, as long as they followed a bunch of rules.  The rules essentially ensured consistency between all the stores in Canada and USA. 

Frank was an older man who had owned and sold a successful dry cleaning business in the valley, to retire.  When he got bored he decided to help Ken on a part time basis. Frank always seemed younger than a retired guy.  Ken and Frank had a common link through the Free Mason’s fraternity.  They both had large impressive rings related to that.  The masons are very “secretive” so I never really knew much about their involvement, other than there are “degrees” or levels that members climb to.  I think one of them was a 33rd degree Mason, which I now know is the highest level.

Ken was influential in developing my career in Sales.  He enrolled me in the “Dale Carnage” Sales Course, which was in Halifax, and we would travel together once a week for a few months to complete the course, which also incorporated reading the book “How to win friends and influence People”.  I still remember the Five rules for selling from the course: Attention, interest, desire, conviction, close.  Ken often shared his fond memories from working in the USA for Sikorsky Aircraft and then with CBS Research Labs.  Its funny how perceptions of age change.  Ken, who was bald headed, always seemed like an old man to me, but I now realize he was only age 38 when he hired me!

Some time later, he brought on Ewout Winklemen as another salesperson, who was a few years younger than me.  Ewout and I became good friends, and ultimately were roommates when we both moved to Halifax in 1980.  It was just a strange valley coincidence that we both had names of Dutch origin.  Ken was good to us, and gave us each a monthly allowance to purchase a new record album so that when demonstrating the Stereo equipment we would be using the latest popular music!  Ken’s favourite record was Neil Diamond live at the Greek Theatre as I recall, although he did seem to have an appreciation for some Big Band – Glen Miller tunes.

I also drive my Motorcycle to work on the good days, so customers learned to recognize when I was there.

Retail Life

Working in a retail store exposed me to lots of good business experiences.  Managing inventory, end of day cash reconciliation and night deposit at the bank, vacuum the floor every morning, annual inventory counts – which usually involved a pizza party or similar.   Drinking lots of coffee.   The crazy Christmas season, and the boring aftermath in January.  When electronics items needed to be fixed, we had a “repair depot” in Halifax, which Ken would drive to once per week, to drop off and pickup customer items.  Putting up Sale signs and stocking the shelves. Although I was very comfortable with most of the products in the store, like Stereos and electronics, I had no exposure to the CB radio, which was very popular at this time. I remember being intimidated for the first week about the CB radio lingo. But in no time I could talk intelligently about the 40 channels, regular and single sideband uses, how to use a SWL meter after installing an antenna on a car, etc.

Value of the Customer relationship

A key ingredient in the success of Radio Shack was the value of the relationship with the customer. It started with the simple collection of the customer’s name and address on every sale that was made, which in turn was used to mail a monthly sales flyer, to bring them back in again. But beyond that most customers were REPEAT customers who had an interest in technology based products, and they valued the expertise of the technology oriented staff that were much more than just cash clerks. Customers would be everything from everyday people looking for a clock radio, to young adults looking for a stereo for their car or home, to grandma’s wanting a battery changed in their watch, to business owners wanting public address (PA) systems or computers, Lawyers and accountants, and kids wanting a cool electronics project for school or self learning.

Good, Better, Best

I learned a valuable lesson when I sold component stereo systems (the kind that had a separate record player and speakers, and amplifier/tuner). Since there were an almost unlimited number of combinations of speaker sizes and qualities and turntable types, the store published catalogs which had pre-selected combinations organized as Good / Better / Best to make it easier to select a combination that suits your needs.

The “Best” choice, is not always the most expensive combination for everyone. An older person may prefer the simplicity of a simple all in one system with small speakers that don’t shake the walls.

Store #5603 was probably about where the GameStop store is in this 2023 photo. Night deposts were made at the Scotiabank on the right.

Memorable Customer service incident

This sweet and sour story illustrates patience pays in retail. For warranty repairs there was a solid network between all the Radio Shack stores. Unfortunately the “dealer stores” are NOT part of the warranty network and need to deal with warranty problems directly. A woman brought her broken clock radio into our store, that she had purchased in the South Shore “dealer store”. She was not happy when I explained that she would need to take it back to the store that she bought it from. So about two weeks later she came back into our store to retrieve her radio from the repair depot… I was a bit dumb-founded because I recalled that she had the radio in her hands when she left the first time, so there was nothing for her to pickup. I also double checked the repair tickets file, to be sure there was no tag there with her name or item. Now she was REALLY UPSET, and flew into me with lots of verbal assaults. I just kept my calm. So fast forward two more weeks, she comes back into our store again… This time she had a small gift for me, and a heart felt apology. She had found the broken radio under her seat in her car and felt bad about giving me such a hard time.

Ken’s era comes to an end

A subsequent salesperson Randy Hill, eventually went on to manage this store in 1984, when Ken gave up his Joint Venture franchise, and the store became a corporate owned store.  That was not a happy time for Ken.

1975 Grade 12 graduation

Radio Shack / Tandy Computer Center #5704

==> See more details in this related article

In 1980 as the Radio Shack TRS-80 became popular, and I had been selling quite a few of them in Ken’s little store in the valley, the District Manager (Ken Bechervaise / Pat Cramer ) suggested that I apply to Manage the new Tandy Computer Center that they were opening in Halifax / Dartmouth.  Also Lindsay Estabrooks who was the provincial “educational sector salesperson” for Radio Shack’s TRS-80 encouraged me. We eventually became room-mates, with his girlfriend at the time called Alice. The regional manager was Carman Dobson at that time. The computer center channel was headed up by Jeff Martin, who was a very personable driven man that I enjoyed working with.

4 thoughts on “Radio Shack Store #5603, New Minas, Nova Scotia, my Memoir of working there in the 70’s

  1. Hey Rob
    Great flashback on Ken and 5603
    Thanks for the memories
    Ken Bechervaise. Belleville on

    1. Hey Ken, so great to hear from you after all these years. I hope life is treating you and your family well over the years. Last I recall you were in PEI. Is Mike Gourd still around?
      – Rob

      1. Hey Rob,
        Thanks for all the updates – we live in Belleville On now.
        I remember when we had a “Computer Center” in the MicMac Mall store (5651 I believe).
        Was that before the Computer Center on Wyse Road ?
        On another note :
        Bellevillle has this store –( the folks that own it are from the New Minas area and were friends with Ken and the local Radio Shack
        all the best

  2. Thanks for the memories. I am still around and doing electrical and electronic troubleshooting for local business in and around Pictou County.
    Mike Gourd

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