Everything has a beginning. For Albany’s Knight’s Appliance and Electronics, it was 1965, on Oglethorpe Boulevard, in a small storefront next to what is now Bank of America. Clarence Knight opened the doors with his focus solely on televisions. In 1968 he moved the operation to its current location on Slappey Boulevard, where it has become a fixture in the Albany business community.
Today, Knight’s is owned and operated by his son, Chuck Knight, making this local business one of Albany’s longest running, family owned operations. Survival in this age of the “big box store” has required a mixture of change and continuity. The first major change was to add appliances to what was exclusively a television store. That proved to be a very wise move, with the onslaught of television and electronics outlets springing up everywhere. Knight said that his business today is built primarily around his appliance sales.
Knight’s has not always been exclusively an Albany business. In the 70s, they also had a location in the Tifton Mall, but after a fire in an adjoining storefront, that location closed. “Dad decided not to reopen there, but in 1991 built a new location in downtown Tifton.” That stayed open until Halloween of 2009, when Chuck opted to shut it down because of the hard economic times and other circumstances. “When Wal-Mart and Lowes opened up in Tifton on the west side of I-75, it drew a lot of the shopping to that area. Up until then, downtown Tifton was the retail hub,” Knight said.
But the Albany location has weathered all sorts of changes in the technology, the economy, and the community. Knight attributes that to a lot of things, but mostly the long-standing focus on serving the local customer base. There is also the price factor. A lot of people think that smaller, locally owned stores cannot compete against the larger chains. But Knight says that’s not always true. “Our buying group did more than thirteen billion dollars in business in last year”. That gives Knight’s and other businesses in the group the opportunity to stay competitive. “But a lot of our customers also come in looking for a little bit of an upgrade to the cheapest thing out there.” Knight said that on several occasions he has sold appliances to some of the larger chain managers when they moved into town, because his price beat what they could do in their own store.
Everyone is now very familiar with Chuck and his staff having a lot of fun in their TV commercials, and he says it’s always fun to do. “I’m a little bit if a free spirit”, Knight admitted. “When we are shooting the commercials we get to cutting the fool, forgetting lines, and just laughing a lot.” The fun has been very effective for Knight’s, keeping the store on the top of folks minds. Lately he has been running some radio spots that are more serious and they’ve worked well also, so Knight is going to see if that will translate over to the TV side.
So how does Knight see the local economy today? “It’s seems to be steadily improving.” He said that 2011 was historically an average year for him, but compared to 2010 to was much better. “2010 was horrible”, Knight said. One good indicator of things is how well washers and dryers sell. It was difficult to keep up with the demand in his supply chain in 2011, but that’s a difficulty he doesn’t mind dealing with. “At one point last year, I had more units in the store than I did in the warehouse.”
But while business seems to be turning a corner, Knight says he sees some real issues still facing Albany, in particular the racial tensions we still wrestle with, and our education system. “I think we are still in trouble in this city. We have not done justice by a lot of our students, particularly in the African-American community”, Knight said. “We have just not done what was necessary to break the cycle, to educate our people so they can be productive. I have people come in that cannot fill out a job application. That’s just sad. That hurts this community.”
The solutions will take a lot of work and patience. He thinks programs like ‘Strive To Thrive’ have the right approach. “That’s an excellent program, and it’s going to take that kind of incremental, steady commitment over the long haul.”
After almost fifty years in business, there’s no doubting Knight’s commitment to making a positive difference. To learn more about Knight’s Appliance and Electronics you can visit them online at www.knightsappliance.com, or better yet, just stop in and say hello.
Chuck Knight in his Slappey Boulevard showroom. Knight’s Appliance has been at that location since 1968.