Generations – Loyalty and Legacy
Baron’s Sticks to the Tried-and-True
When brothers Don and Fred Baron returned from World War II, they transferred their radar expertise to an up-and-coming radar-dependent industry: television. Their first TV and (soon-to-be) appliance store opened in 1947 in Lawrence, where the brothers had grown up working in the textile factories. From the downtown Essex Street shop, fleets were deployed to TV-coveting households, tasked with the momentous honor of installing large roof antennas and delivering the nation’s first home television sets.
When Andover native Dave Souter was growing up, his uncles’ store was like his very own babysitting center. After his mom dropped him off and went to run errands, Uncle Don would hand him a root beer and say, “stick around,” or send him to ride along on a delivery. Sometimes, says Souter, “He would give me a small, 19-inch TV for someone in need and say, ‘Go bring it to this house. Don’t say who it’s from.’ And whoever was home was like, ‘Oh my God!’”
Uncle Don was a family man who drew others to him with welcoming eyes. “Everybody loved Uncle Don,” says Dave, “Even to employees, he was Uncle Don.” His business partner, Fred Baron, was of the same mold, offering support for local families he met.
When Dave and his two cousins, Mike Baron and Brian Ellis, took ownership of the now New Hampshire-based chain in 2007, they were already adherents of the family-centered business philosophy, values that were established by their uncles and are practiced to this day by the entire company: Employees and customers are like family and family comes first. When an employee is sick, or having a hard time, the concern is over that person’s well-being, not for the work lost. That’s how it’s been from the beginning, and it’s no wonder that Baron’s has a remarkable number of second-generation employees, some of whom are the children of people Dave knew from his childhood delivery routes.
There are second and third generation customers as well, many of whom simply say, “My parents told me to come see you.” There is little doubt as to where that loyalty comes from, even if one only hears a single story. Dave speaks fondly of an older customer whom he would visit at daylight saving time — she couldn’t change the clock on her VCR. After resetting the display, he’d stay a while for tea and listen to her talk about her past. “My cousins could tell you the same stories,” says Dave, “And that comes from my uncle telling me to go deliver that TV to one of his valued customers.”
These days, it’s rare to find appliance stores that offer repairs. While it’s been a challenge to maintain this part of the business with fewer young people entering the field, Dave explains, “We’ve always kept it on, because we’ve always felt that we are a family-owned business and truly caring for our customers is something that clearly separates us from the big box stores of today. … We’ll keep it going. We’ll find people. We’ll continue to do everything we can to make our customers happy. That’s what we do.”
Like their uncles’ TV store beginnings, Baron’s is still on the leading edge of technology. With their own proprietary point-of-sale software and robust web services, they were tech-ready when the pandemic hit. They hired additional people to staff their online shopping chat service and have seen heavy traffic and pleased reviewers. “Our goal is simply to make each customer a happy customer,” says Dave, “We’re lucky as can be to be successful at it.”
Baron’s Major Brands