Monday, October 28, 2013

Lafayette Radio Electronics

Back in the fifties and sixties, Lafayette Radio Electronics was a retail and mail-order competitor for Radio Shack, Allied Radio, and even Heathkit. They no longer exist. Lafayette was based in Syosset, New York and sold consumer radios, radio kits, ham equipment, CB radios, and components of every shape and sort. More here.

Wholesale Radio Service Company was founded in 1921 by a 21-year old kid named Abraham Pletman in New York City. Their first paper catalog already had 80 pages. Remember, back in the 1920s most of the radio technology we take for granted was freshly patented. So the retail devices were very pricey. But a radio geek could make their own devices one component at a time evading the patent problem and saving money.  They started using the Lafayette brand as early as July of 1931. Lafayette Radio Electronics became a booming mail-order catalog business. They advertised heavily in major U.S. geek and gearhead magazine like Popular Mechanics, Popular Electronics and Stereo Review. But the big draw in the 1960s was their monster 400-page electronics catalog it had everything under the sun. It was the yellow pages of geek...and it was free. More here.

In 1939 following an FTC action they dropped the "Wholesale Radio Service" name and change to "Radio Wire Television Inc." Apparently back then retailers couldn't claim to be wholesalers. But throughout the years "Lafayette Radio" became more prominently displayed on the catalog cover.

They even opened their own retail stores. The earliest of these appeared as early as the 1950s around New York City. Their 1965 catalog listed a dozen stores in all.  Pletman died in 1973 and the company veered off the tracks. Their 1975 catalog mentions the existence of over 100 stores. That foot note does not indicate which are owned and which are franchisees. In that same time period Radio Shack opened thousands of stores. Lafayettetook some bad gambles on media and radio formats that changed or failed costing them money in bad inventory. Lafayette filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 1980 and a dozens of stores closed over night. They liquidated their stock to pay debts and =Circuit City bought many of theirr original NYC area stores.