Richard Covert sits among the televisions for sale at his store, Richard Covert TV & Stereo. (Spenser R. Hasak)
LYNN — With his suspenders and cigars and his name emblazoned on a sign looming over Wyoma Square, Richard Covert has one foot rooted firmly in the 20th century, in an age when consumers shop for appliances at big-box stores.
Even his business name — Richard Covert TV & Stereo — is a throwback to a time long before the advent of mobile technology, streaming, tweeting and swiping. As far as Covert is concerned, that’s fine.
“Most of my sales are to reliable customers. What brings them back? Satisfaction. You buy a TV from us, we assemble the stand and take away your old television,” he said.
Covert also specializes in “out of demand” televisions or appliances. He’s more than happy to hunt down a new washer or dryer for a customer who is loyal to a specific brand.
At the age of 79, the East Lynn native who now lives in Lynnfield can get the newest model television or appliance for any customer who wants one. He can also order and program a product many big appliance stores don’t stock: police scanners.
He said longtime customers who enjoy monitoring police and fire calls come to him to update their scanners and reprogram the machines.
“I have one on constantly,” he said.
Covert grew up in the Brookline and Timson streets neighborhood and fondly remembers the former Nissen Bakery in his neighborhood. An English High School graduate, he went to work for his late brother, Robert, in 1957 in one of 10 independently-owned appliance stores doing business at the time in Lynn.
The late 1950s and early 1960s were the golden age of color televisions and the Covert brothers had a waiting list for new model RCA and Magnavox sets mounted in big consoles.
His brother died in 1960 and Covert moved the business from Market Square to Wyoma Square in 1969, initially setting up shop on the side of the square opposite where he is now located.
He bought the commercial building Covert TV now anchors in 1972 and is still the landlord for several business tenants. He once employed two full-time service technicians to make house calls. Today, a back shop, complete with a wood workbench and cabinets full of transistors and diodes, are reminders of yesteryear’s TV technology.
Covert still considers service an important part of his business and he contracts with service and delivery companies to ensure his customers are happy.
“I have a customer who is 99 years old and when her TV broke, we got a new one over to her,” he said.
Sixty years and counting in the appliance business has seen popular technologies come and go. Covert once sold citizen band radios and Atari games. He still has a pair of “rabbit ears” antennas one of his shop shelves.
If he sees five customers in the span of a week, Covert considers himself lucky, but he still dresses for work in a tie, blazer and, yes, suspenders.
“Treat a customer right and you will have them for life,” he said.