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March Issue Feature: Real World Retail - Greg's Custom AVC

3-22-2017 -- Habits are funny things. They are created through a fixed way of thinking, willing or feeling acquired through previous repetition of mental experiences, according to the American Journal of Psychology. Replacing old habits with new ones takes twice the effort considering each comes with its own set of routines.

Greg Tackett, owner of Greg's Custom Audio, Video and Car Stereo in Pikeville, Ky. had to learn this the hard way when he took over his family's 40-year car stereo store to finally realize his dream of entrepreneurship. After having worked his way up the ladder from novice to expert, Tackett made a point of creating his own shop style and culture, despite the old habits he and others became accustomed to at the company.

Tackett had been involved with automotive work from a young age, working part-time during high school at Mayo Tire, a general automotive and tire shop owned by his father and uncle. After graduating, he continued at the shop while also attending the nearby Mayo Technical School, with the goal of becoming a TV and radio repairman. "It helped me to learn the basics of electronics and we were able to use it in our home and car audio business. I learned the different circuits, how they worked, how we could use them for the electrical part of the car, the grounding," Tackett said. "I finished school in two years. After I graduated, I went to work full-time with my dad and was there for 35 years. We built car and home audio installations."

In 2007, long after Tackett's father passed away, the family soon decided it was time to do separate things. Tackett and his wife saw an opportunity to take over the business and rebrand it into something new. "At that time, all our manufacturers stuck with us and kind of helped us along and gave us their lines," he said. "We looked all over to find this location. It's across from a Walmart and a shopping center. At the time, the economy was doing super and there was hardly a place available to rent. We had a lady who had a space, a warehouse that looked hopeless and my wife has vision and said, 'We can make this work.' We did some remodeling and moved our stuff in."

Tackett had little money to purchase displays for the new shop, but his daughter informed him of a CompUSA that was closing in Lexington, Ky. He spoke to the manager, who turned out to be a former customer of Tackett's, and was able to purchase several displays cheaply. Patrons from the local church also chipped in by making a display for the shop, including a high quality paint job that received many compliments from customers.

The first year of business proved to be successful, as business rolled in steadily. Then the recession hit and gave the shop its first true test. "We're in the coal fields in Eastern Kentucky. The coal was basically taken away from us," Tackett said. "In those first two years of '08 and '09, we were doing super good. Then they took the coal away and it was worrisome in this area. Thousands of men lost their jobs. A lot of people were moving out because they didn't have any work to do. We stayed here and were kind of rebounding."

Standing up to the challenge, Tackett developed the strategy of maximizing return customers by treating them like family. "That's one of the things we've built our business on. We go above and beyond what we've needed to do. We're in a small town and word gets out quick if you're not doing what you're supposed to do," Tackett said. "The first thing we do when someone comes through the door is we try to get to know them, then let them get to know us, find out what they need, make friends and let them become part of our family. We try to give them what they need and sell what they need, instead of just selling a bunch of boxes and seeing how much money we can get out of them."

A Fresh Approach

With a population under 10,000, it might be considered difficult to maintain a steady flow of customers at a 12-volt shop. Not for Greg's Custom AVC, which has become a staple of the local community. "We've come back slowly but surely," Tackett said.

Primary work, due to the mountain region, includes off-road vehicles like pickup trucks, side-by-sides and four-wheelers. Products and services have diversified beyond car and home audio to include truck accessories due to the shop's demographic. Approximately 25 percent of the business involves selling and installing truck accessories, with around 50 percent in car audio, backup cameras, video and other 12-volt standards.

"It's mostly older customers coming out to buy things to dress up their trucks. They buy things like step bars on Ford F-150, bed covers, bent visors, floor liners and bug visors. That's been a tremendous business," Tackett said. "Car audio is more flat. The accessory business has been very good for us."

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