The Outer Banks Voice – “I offered numerous tv antennas.”

“I’ve sold a lot of TV antennas.

By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice on January 17, 2021

Harry Gessford is retiring after owning his Radio Shack franchise for 42 years. (Courtesy photo by Kip Tabb)

After 42 years, a legendary radio shack closes

Harry Gessford is at the counter of his Radio Shack store in Nags Head, entering the final phase of his store’s closure. There isn’t much left in the store now. There are the albums, the LPs in front of digital music, CDs and downloads that are piled on the floor. A couple of display shelves are still inside and three or four of them are in front of the store. Other than that, it’s an empty shell.

The 4,000-square-foot space was sold to the Outer Banks Community Church, which was formerly the Ocean View Baptist Church.

More than most companies, Gessford’s Radio Shack has testified to the profound technological changes that have transformed communication and entertainment in our culture. And when it opened at Surfside Plaza in Nags Head in 1978, its inventory was very different.

“I sold a lot of TV antennas back then because cable TV wasn’t everywhere in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Lots of TV antennas and accessories, cable splitters and all that stuff. And we sold a lot of CB radios and car radios, ”he said.

“When I first opened up, there were no phones [for sale in stores], “he went on.” They were still controlled by the phone company. It was 1980, 1979 or so that the phone companies broke up and they started wearing all those cordless phones. That was probably one of the nicest things I ever did have found. “

Radio Shack always gave its franchisees a lot of leeway in what they wanted to wear in their stores, so Gessford stored records and then CDs.

“It was about two-thirds of Radio Shack and one-third of records,” he said. “Everyone started downloading around the year 2000, which affected music sales. But for some reason we kept our music going pretty well. “

The road to owning a radio cabin in Nags Head began before Gessford came to the Outer Banks. His father was in the Navy, his mother from Wanchese. At some point, towards the end of his father’s tenure, the family moved from Pearl Harbor to Wanchese.

“My father was in the Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I grew up there. Then we moved here from Hawaii to Wanchese in 1966, ”he said.

“That was a cultural shift,” he added. “I remember when we first moved in 1966 I came to the beach. There was nothing here. The bypass was a real bypass. There was nothing on it. “

Then his father was transferred again, this time to Yorktown. Gessford graduated from high school on Hampton Road.

“I took electronics at vo-tech. I was just getting interested in electronics and stuff, ”he said.

Because of that interest in electronics, moving to a Radio Shack franchise seemed like a natural evolution, Gessford said. “There was none [Radio Shack] Shop here on the Outer Banks back in ’78. So I applied for the franchise and got approved. “

However, there was some work and business experience that prepared him to own a franchise business.

“The family bought the Snowbird Drive-in in 1970, so I worked there for ten years,” he said. “Me and my sister owned it until his last summer. We sold it to Gus [Zinovis] by Mulligans. It’s been in this place since 1958. “

In 1992 he moved Radio Shack to the Croatian center, a shopping center where the companies have their premises.

“They built this place, the mall, and it was condo retail. I thought, “Why can’t I get a place here?” Instead of paying someone rent, I’m paying rent to myself, ”he said.

The move turned out to be a good one, and Radio Shack’s last summer of 2020 turned out to be one of the best ever for any business. So Gessford goes on a winning grade.

“Since I owned this room, I didn’t have to take a lot of money to make it work,” he said. “It is time to retire. Make your life a little easier. “

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