Burt Penchansky is the owner of Burt’s Electronics in Kingston, which specializes in selling, servicing, and installing home and car stereo equipment.
How did you get into this line of work?
This started as a hobby when I was in junior high school; I was always tinkering with record players and radios as a kid. In high school I was always involved in stage productions and music. I am a voracious music lover and have been to probably thousands of concerts.
What is your educational background and training in your field?
I originally attended SUNY New Paltz on a Regents scholarship with the intention of becoming an English teacher. I worked my way through school by selling and servicing electronics; it was suggested to me that I’d be well advised to enter this field as a career. I switched to RCA Institutes for Electronics in NYC and my path was set.
After school I was employed at Channel Master in Ellenville as a technician assigned to the repair of car and home audio equipment. When the company relocated out of state I settled into the Albany Avenue location where I’ve been since.
Tell me what your job entails.
I am a purveyor of quality reasonably priced music and video equipment, as well as installation and servicing. I try to provide service that can’t be had at any mass merchant source whether at the mall or online.
On most any given day I can be found at my Albany Avenue store helping people make decisions about purchasing music systems. I also repair older stereo equipment; in fact, the restoration of fine older stereo equipment is a particular passion of mine.
My mornings begin three hours before my 9 a.m. opening time. It’s my time to do my purchase order financing, accounting, scheduling, and everything else that can’t happen during store hours. Essentially, I do everything, but I am fortunate to have the talented and methodical Chris Mills as an employee to install most of the car stereos and remote car starters I sell. It’s very important that the cars be treated carefully and knowledgeably.
I also personally attend to home stereo and video installation. I want to make sure the situating of the equipment attains the best results. The connection and configuring of the components and speakers has everything to do with getting performance and value from the client’s investment.
What skills are required for this work?
You have to have common sense, an aptitude for combining products for best results, willingness to research products properly and the ability to present them properly to customers. The training is continuous because it’s a multifaceted ever-evolving industry.
Does the job provide a decent work/life balance?
I’ve maintained a six-day a week schedule for all these years. It’s an event when I manage to get two days off in a row. I haven’t had a vacation in two years. That said, I’m extremely fortunate that I greatly enjoy what I do. Earning a living at your hobby is a better quality of life than many people get.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of the work?
It’s rewarding to see a client become emotional about the pleasure of hearing their favorite music sound great.
What is the most difficult aspect?
Unfortunately, small businesses are not well supported either by the government or the buying public. Shoppers scramble for the best deal and make misinformed judgments leading to regrettable purchases.
How has the job changed since you started? I imagine in your case, technology has changed everything.
A well asked question because if there’s any business that needs to pay attention to change, it’s consumer electronics. New technologies emerge and lessons about them need to be learned; my homework never stops. Just because a corporation offers a new product doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. I feel a responsibility to my clients to be able to offer whatever help I can for them to make a smart judgment about what new products offer a worthwhile investment.
How’s the pay?
It’s much more about the love of enjoying your hobby as a livelihood than it is about some kind of windfall of wealth. Many hard working 9 to 5 wage earners think that somehow being a small business owner is an easier livelihood and readily yields great wealth. I’m afraid that’s not quite the case. I’m just glad I get compensated for helping people with their music and enjoying my lifetime hobby!