You-do-it Electronics to Close, Ending 75-Year Legacy

May 31, 2024
• The eclectic family-owned store plans to close shop after more than seven decades of service.

“Bittersweet.” That’s how Melissa Roy described the closure of her family’s 75-year-old electronics store. Her grandfather, John Ahigian, founded what would become “You-do-it” Electronics Center back in 1949, and the store has remained within the family ever since.

You-do-it announced the closure in an email to customers last week, adding they will be selling off current inventory — including shelving and furniture — while they remain open. They do not yet have a specific closing day.

Support for the store since the announcement has been “overwhelming,” Roy said.

“We always said [we’re] New England’s most complete outlet, but we’ve really reached far beyond New England,” Roy said. “Those are the things that we cherish and give us a happy feeling, knowing that we have had such a reach within our customer base and our community.”

Ahigian started the business — then Clarendon Radio and TV Sales and Service — in Boston’s South End, but later moved and expanded the operation onto Franklin Street in Needham in 1965. Their signature sign atop the building served as a beacon for locals, some of whom are now calling for its preservation.

Ahigian’s son, also John Ahigian, assisted customers across the store Wednesday morning as they filed in, presumably after hearing the news.

Ahigian has “mixed emotions” about parting with the store. He watched as his father ran the business before his passing in late 2022, and he himself has worked there for more than 50 years. But a decrease in foot traffic and the closure of their second floor led Ahigian and family members to confront a difficult reality: It might be time to retire.

A copy of the trademark You-do-it Electronics Center sign outside the building. (Cameron Morsberger)

“Unfortunately not as many as 20 years ago before the advent of the internet, but people would like to come in and be hands on and design things,” Ahigian said. “We’ve had a lot of technology here.”

The technology transitioned from TV tubes to semiconductors to integrated circuits to $300 calculators, Ahigian said. In the last week, old customers have visited the store “just to reminisce,” he said.

Roy, who manages the marketing for the store, remembers crawling in her grandfather’s office while he worked. She later joined the fold in the mid-1990s, witnessing a shift in electronics from the analog into the digital. VCR, cassettes and CDs made way for cell phones and computers, Roy said. Now, home automation and smart devices rule, and the store kept up with current trends along the way, she said.

You-do-it appealed to the hobbyist, professional and everyday consumer, Roy said, but shopping behaviors have changed and the consumer world has shifted. Roy recalled hosting vendors for marketing events and marking milestone anniversaries for the business, but those ended at the onset of COVID.

Nevertheless, the store remains a resource for people, Roy said, and it’s the interactions with customers and the store culture that she will miss the most.

“I think we were such a benchmark in the industry,” Roy said. “It’s like extended family, our customers… Hearing the stories of people who come in and say things like, ‘I’d come here with my grandfather’ or ‘My dad brought me here, and now I’m bringing my kids here.’”

Dozens of radio and TV tubes line a shelf at You-do-it Electronics Center. The tubes were a popular product when the retailer first opened in Needham in 1965. (Cameron Morsberger)

Lifelong Needhamite Nicholas Giancioppo grew up just down the street from the store, and by the 1960s, he was “the neighborhood TV fixer,” his son David said. A big box in their basement was full of TV tubes, he said, most of which he bought at You-do-it.

Trips to the store became the Giancioppos’ Saturday ritual, David Giancioppo said, and the staff knew his dad as soon as he entered. David remembers buying a crude transistor radio kit to build himself, remarking that electronics — and the store’s offerings — have advanced significantly since then.

Nicholas Giancioppo passed away in November, and while his son said he hasn’t returned to the store in years, the place holds some special memories. He considers You-do-it “a local treasure.”

“It’s a loss in a way because it was a nice thing,” David Giancioppo, of Norwood, said. “It was right there, so you could pick up things.”

The interior of You-do-it Electronics Center May 29, 2024. The store is clearing its inventory after announcing its impending closure. (Cameron Morsberger)

For the Rooney family, they too valued the store’s convenience. Jodi Rooney, of Needham, said her husband and son tackle building projects together, gathering their supplies at You-do-it first. Their 3D printer, a computer screen, a Raspberry Pi — a simplistic programming computer — and cables and wires have come from You-do-it, Rooney said.

The store fueled her son’s growing interest in computers and coding, but when they downsized after the pandemic, they carried fewer products that he needed, Rooney said. But in a world where Amazon and online retailers dominate, she said it was nice to have somewhere close by.

“You’re supporting a local business, which is always very important,” Rooney said. “We will definitely miss it, but hoping for the best for them.”

The sight of the “You-do-it” sign off Route 128 once reminded a young David Giancioppo that he was close to home, and Rooney said she hopes the sign is secured for antiquity’s sake.

Ahigian said he’s aware of the sign’s place in the community and will be holding onto it for the time being. Apart from the store’s iconic in-person location, it’s their staff that set them apart, Ahigian said.

“All of our salespeople are all knowledgeable, as opposed to a lot of the big box stores,” he said.

Their new store hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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