Forty years. Forty remarkable, memorable, hard-to-believe, wild and crazy, you-can’t-be-serious years. They say “time flies when you’re having fun?” Yes. They say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life?” Definitely yes. Flash back with us to August 1978… see how a tiny hi-fi store with the quirky and somewhat ambitious name – “World Wide Stereo” – goes from cassette players and boom boxes to sound bars and Bluetooth. And as for the secret to our success, what makes us, us? We sincerely love what we do, and we love sharing that love. So c’mon, scroll along with us below… and we’ll meet you back in 2019!
Bob Cole is born to John and Yolanda Cole of Little Silver, NJ. Bob’s love of music comes early – his mom was a blues rocker and his godmother, Aunt Theresa, a music teacher.
Bob makes his first crystal radio set with a sewing thread spool and copper wire. From there on out – Bob was hooked on gadgets. As a member in good standing in the High School Math Club, Bob visits Bell Labs and meets the inventors of the transistor. Lifelong geekness is now assured.
At Temple University, Bob studies under two renowned behavioral psychologists: Arnold Lazarus and Joseph Wolpe, which leads to a successful 12-year career as a psychologist. Along the way, Bob is fascinated by the impact of music on the behavior of emotionally disturbed patients. When the mental health center where Bob works loses funding, he quits in search of a more creative endeavor.
Bob aims high and marries Karen Shechtman, an art teacher in the Philadelphia public school system. Bob realizes he’s going to have to make more money.
Bob takes a job with a retail franchise called World Wide Stereo as a way to fully embrace his lifelong passion for music, gadgets and making people happy. When the company fails, Bob opens up his own version of the store in Montgomeryville, PA with $2K in cash and $16K in loans from a local bank. He immediately starts building – at the height of a major recession and oil embargo.
Atari takes the world by storm, business booms at the store and Bob schedules the very first custom install – a pair of 6x9 car speakers in a customer’s hot tub area. Ron, Bob’s first employee, discovers 110 volts while wearing flip-flops and standing in water can be painful.
The first in a series of infamous radio ads hits the airwaves. The spots are based on Bob and Ron’s everyday sales floor antics.
World Wide Stereo expands, taking over the adjacent Rapco Automotive & Tire Shop. WWS uses the space to build a 4-bay garage, and soon after, the car stereo business booms. World Wide Stereo launches the first company website and the store is named “Audio Dealer of the Year” by Audio Video International – the first significant award of many to come.
The tenant next door, Lee’s Hoagies, moves out and World Wide Stereo takes control of the entire building. The sales team starts shedding pounds (no more hoagies) and begins remodeling what would become the famous flagship store on Route 309 in Montgomeryville. Locals call the store "Bob and Ron's" and the name not only sticks, it ends up on the sign outside.
The oldest stereo store in the Philadelphia area, Danby Radio on the Main Line, joins World Wide Stereo and becomes its second location: Ardmore PA.
World Wide Stereo installs a full-blown theater in the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House that is attached to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. By loading the house up with state-of-the-art technology, Bob finds a greater purpose for World Wide Stereo.
Emily Cole, Bob’s daughter, joins the family business and launches worldwidestereo.com as an online store. The goal: replicate the fun, friendly World Wide Stereo showroom vibe in an ecommerce space. By years’ end, World Wide Stereo is on the way to becoming a major national player and its women-led team is a powerful standout in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
World Wide Stereo’s Porsche wins #4 in the US and #8 in the world for “Best Sounding Car Stereo” at the prestigious Daytona Nationals IASCA. International press picks up the story, and the car business grows even more.
World Wide Stereo’s 1,000,000th customer buys a turntable, and the e-commerce business starts getting serious traction.
World Wide Stereo opens a 13,500 square foot distribution center in Montgomeryville, PA.
The company dog, Harley, takes on a full-time position assisting the company’s receptionist then moves into finance.
On the week of his 70th birthday, Bob Cole is inducted into the Consumer Technology Hall of Fame. In doing so, Bob joins the likes of Steve Jobs, Frank McIntosh, and Paul Klipsch – all leaders, who, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), "advance innovation and develop, market, and promote the technologies that improve consumers' lives."
Welcome to present day: Our 40th year kicked off with a coveted Best of Philly recognition - now our third! It’s almost easy to be the Best of Philly when your customers are the best. You make coming to work the most awesome job in the world. Thank you.
Have a World Wide Stereo memory you'd like to share with us? Send your photos, videos, and/or stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.