Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sears, Roebuck and KBIM

It was May of 1977 and both 990 KBIM-AM and 94.9 KBIM-FM had to operate out of the furniture department at a Sears in Roswell New Mexico. If you look carefully at the picture, you can see over their news desk, a FREE DELIVERY sign. the one on the right says FURNITURE. This is the only incidence of radio literally located in retail that I know of so let's begin in the beginning.

In a great step of irony, KBIM owner Bill Taylor worked at a J.C. Penny's before founding KBIM-AM in 1953. In 1959 he built KBIM-FM, and only months later KBIM-TV. In 1963 he built another AM. 990 AM was running a Top-40 format and was #1 in the market. His cluster was on the upswing. Then the crap hit the fan. In the summer of 1966 Walker Air force base closed. 15,000 servicemen, workers and their dependents were all left in the lurch. 25% of the population of Roswell just up and left. Selling ad time on their new TV station got hard. then a windstorm took down it's 1800+ foot tower. Then the building that houses their AM, FM and TV air studios was destroyed by a fire. This was a total catastrophe. More here.
Thankfully insurance covered repairs to the TV tower. But money was still short and Rosewell descending into a ghost town. Bill looked around for some workable floor space. Just blocks away was an closed and now vacant Sears building. A local bank had bought it to demolish for a parking lot. He cut a deal with that bank to delay the wrecking ball temporarily.

With a new base of operations, KBIM-FM was back on air within 24 hours, the AM in 72 hours. The TV station was out for another week. After that it was back to business. Roswell recovered somewhat in the 1970s. In 1989 he sold off KBIM-TV for 5 million dollars and his son-in law John King, bought out the radio stations. In 2008 King sold off the stations to Bill Nolan at Noalmark Broadcasting.