Great Barrington's Tune Street to shut down retail store, shift to home installations

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Longtime anchor business Tune Street will be moving to a new, larger location and streamlining its operation into an installation-only business.

A staple of the downtown landscape, Tune Street has been selling home electronics and music at the corner of Main Street and Railroad Street for more than 20 years.

The transition reflects a dramatic shift in the retail landscape, said business owner Luke Germain, who noted Tune Street cleared $1 million in retail sales in 2008.

"Last year," he said, "we made $100,000."

Germain said he has a purchase-and-sale agreement with the owner of a building at 117 State Road. He is seeking a mixed-use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and was expected to appear before the town Select Board on Monday as part of that process.

He did not disclose the terms of the deal, which has not been finalized.

The plan, he said, is to convert a barn on the property to office and storage space. The house will remain a two-family rental, he said.

Germain said the corner space at the current store at 284 Main St., about 4,000 square feet, is coveted by at least six other businesses, but he was not aware of who ultimately would be the new tenant. The new space will be 4,700 square feet.

Equally important, Germain said, the property has a total of 14 parking spaces, with ample room for his fleet of six vans as well as employee vehicles.

The present site has no parking and is inadequate for the company's current needs.

"We have no real office space," he said. "People are jammed in with each other. Our doors are really too narrow to get our equipment in and out."

The business was opened in 1993 by John and Cynthia Conlin, who sold compact discs and stereo equipment.

At that time, Germaine said, it was a "100 percent retail operation." Today, that number is about 1 or 2 percent.

The business already had begun shifting into installation work when Germaine joined in 2003. He bought the business from the Conlins when they retired in 2010.

By 2014, retail giants like Amazon.com were chewing up part of the music business and downloads were responsible for the rest. That year, Tune Street discontinued CD sales.

The business was still selling and installing televisions and audio equipment, but even that was rapidly shrinking, said Germaine.

The business now concentrates on installing central lighting systems; so-called "smart homes," which are home electronic systems controlled by a single remote; home theaters and wireless networks. All these systems, Germain said, can be installed in both homes and businesses.

His crews are presently in the process of installing various systems in 60 homes, some as far away as New York City.

"Our business is still growing in installations," he said. "But retail is going down to nothing."

Germain said he hopes to be in the State Road space by the end of May, pending the various permit approvals. He plans to hire another sales rep to the 11-person staff; two part-time staffers that ran the retail operation will be laid off.

He acknowledged that the closing of the retail operation will represent the end of an era.

'We needed more space, especially more office space, but it was really tough to finally make the decision to leave," he said. "There is so much history here. ... It's been home for me."

Germain said about 20 percent of the business is done in Berkshire County. But, he said, he is committed to staying in the Berkshires.

"My wife loves it here, my kids go to school here; it's where we live," he said. "My employees all live here with their families. We probably could have found a more central spot to do business, but we want to stay in the Berkshires."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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