Beacon Electronics — a granddaddy of Westport’s locally owned, hometown businesses — has turned off its lights.
Perhaps time passed an electronics repair store by. But “06880” won’t let Beacon pass into memory without a proper sendoff.
Nearly 20 years ago I interviewed Tom Migliaccio — co-owner with his brother Louis — for “Woog’s World.” Even in 1990, I was awed that a store like Beacon Electronics was still around.
It opened at its Post Road location in 1949, and never moved (the name came from a big beacon behind it, near Rayfield Road). I described it as “staffed by middle-aged experts, not 20-something whippersnappers who don’t know a woofer from a tweezer. If my stereo was history, they’d tell me so, and if I needed a part that cost 98 cents, they wouldn’t charge me 98 bucks for it.”
When the Migliaccios opened, their rent was $75 a month. In 1990 it was $100 — a day. I have no idea what Beacon paid when it closed, but I’m sure it was a lot more than $3,000 a month.
Two decades ago, the Migliaccios described the difficulty of making money. Solder cost $15 a pound. “You can’t charge a customer for soldering a connection,” Tom said. “But we have to solder, and someone’s gotta pay for it. Well, that someone is me.”
In the 20 years since we talked, things got worse. People stopped bringing in radios for repair — because people stopped listening to radios. Or if they didn’t, when one broke they simply bought a new one.
With televisions, the opposite occurred. They became so complex — and humongous — that specialists now make house calls. You can’t toss a 60-inch entertainment center in the back of your car, even if your car is the size of a house.
Way back then, Tom predicted doom for small Westport stores. He said: “A friend told me, ‘If you stay in business long enough you’ll end up broke.’ The cost of staying in business, you just can’t keep up. I think one day you’re going to find Westport is a town without services. There are a lot of empty stores now, and there’ll be more in the future. Pretty soon there’ll be no more mom-and-pop stores anymore.”
But — true to his generation and his craft — Tom was not complaining. Looking back in 1990 on 41 years, he said he planned to stay as long as he could.
“By and large, everyone we run into is nice,” he said. “We have a good clientele, and we’re thankful for it. But you can’t control rent, you can’t control inventory costs, you can’t control health insurance. That’s what the little guy is up against. If I didn’t enjoy what I do, I would’ve been out of here long ago.”
It took 19 more years — for a total of 60 — but Beacon Electronics finally met its match. Nothing lasts forever — not even a hometown repair shop where the owners are actual experts, and customers truly come first.
Today there is one more hole on the Post Road streetscape. If there is a god, it won’t be filled by a bank.