Owner Fred Longworth says music lovers turn to classic electronics for stability
By Cynthia Robertson | SDUN Reporter
Fred Longworth has helped vintage audio to have a long life. In a time when small businesses have it tough, it is a high note that his business has thrived since 1994. Classic Audio Repair, formerly Stereo Tech, has become a well-known presence at 3401 Adams Ave. in Normal Heights.
Longworth and his service technicians repair a few contemporary items, but the lion’s share of their work is on equipment manufactured from 1950 through 1990. That would include repair of everything from CD players to amplifiers.
For customers hanging on to older equipment, such as cassette and reel-to-reel tape decks, Classic Audio Repair is a neighborhood friend.
“Put simply, every one of my customers loves music,” Longworth said. “That’s why people are willing to spend their hard-earned money. My work is really to help people enjoy their music habit.”
In fact, interest in vintage audio is on the rise, Longworth said. “As our culture cascades forward in a technological tsunami, people look for anchors [and] islands of stability.”
Longworth said in searching for stability, customers often turn to vintage electronics, which he pointed out often sounds much better than high-tech, home-theater equipment.
The Uptown resident has several decades of experience working with older music amplifiers and tape decks. He worked as a service manager for Panasonic when he got his master’s in business administration in 1990. In 1992, he ended his employment with the electronics company and toyed around with the idea of getting a career in environmental work. In 1994, he returned to his work with electronic gear.
In truth, Longworth calls himself an inveterate puzzle solver, which he said is exactly what audio repair is like. Add to that his love for details, and this job is his perfect niche.
“A typical repair involves scores, or even hundreds, of details, every one of which must be gotten right in order to yield a satisfied customer,” he said.
A typical day for Longworth is a combination of repairing the gear himself, serving customers at the main counter, and answering phone calls and emails. He also researches hard-to-find parts and does “a mountain of paperwork,” he said.
Even though Longworth could retire if he wanted, he said he decided to stay in the business because, simply put, this is what he does. “I’ve been at it in some capacity for forty years,” he said.
Longworth does have some help, he said, though finding qualified technical employees has been difficult. He calls his technician Jordan Pier, “extraordinary” and “a true dynamo.” Between the two, they work long hours.
“Sometimes I just feel weary,” Longworth said.
When it does get to be a bit much as the owner of a business in a high-traffic and high-demand area, Longworth turns to artistic interests to refresh his perspective. He said he plays the piano, particularly enjoying rock and jazz.
“If my life had taken a slightly different turn, I might have wound up as a cabaret pianist,” he said.
His artistic bent has gone another direction, as well. After he closes the shop in the evenings, he said he often goes for long walks, which nurtures his mind and feeds his appreciation of words. Longworth is active in the San Diego and Southern California poetry scenes.
“I’ve acquired many precious friendships,” he said.
For more information on Classic Audio Repair, visit repairaudio.com or call 619-282-9101.