RAHWAY, N.J. — Crazy Eddie, the legendary and notorious New York-area CE retailer, has reappeared on the radar screen of the industry with a new chairman, a report of a new advertising campaign and with founder Eddie Antar on hand as "director of marketing and strategic relationships."
According to chairman/CEO Dave Jones, a former executive with Aon Corporation and Arthur Young & Co., Crazy Eddie is a new, privately held company that does its business only online (www.crazyeddie.com) and by phone (1-888-645-1196).
The company, which has had a low profile during the year it has been in operation, employs 25, including "a good number of the best Crazy Eddie employees" of a decade ago. Jones said that, since opening last year, consumers found Crazy Eddie through "search engines looking for the best prices in consumer electronics."
At this point, most of its customers come from outside the tri-state area but the chain will launch a TV, radio, print and Web advertising campaign in the New York market featuring former pitchman Jerry Carroll during the next 30 to 60 days. Size of the budget was not disclosed.
Jones added that unlike other e-tailing start-ups, "we were profitable last year and are profitable now," but since it is a private company he declined to say what annual sales are at this point. The company has no plans to open brick & mortar stores. A lone Crazy Eddie store, opened a couple of years ago by Eddie Antar's nephews in New Jersey, and that had no relationship with this new company, has closed.
Crazy Eddie is more than just an e-tailing operation, Jones said. "We want to talk to you on the phone and give you the same type of service you had at the old Crazy Eddie."
Crazy Eddie's site features all CE and PC categories, including air conditioners from most of the top brands in the industry. The retailer is filling orders from its warehouse and Jones confirmed that "the main source of our products come from distributors" who ship directly to consumers.
In calls to JVC, Sony, Thomson, Hitachi, Olympus, Canon and Klipsch, all denied that they are shipping product directly to the retailer or that it is an authorized dealer. Jones added the company is "exploring direct relationships with manufacturers."
That may be difficult given the track record and current involvement of Eddie Antar, who Jones said is an employee and not an owner or director of the privately-held firm.
Antar founded the original Crazy Eddie, which at its peak, operated 43 stores in the New York metropolitan area and had $350 million in sales. After going public in the late 1980s, stockholders lost upwards of $200 million. Antar was charged with fraud and embezzlement in 1990 and became a fugitive for two years. He returned to custody and was convicted of stock fraud in 1993. The conviction was overturned in 1995, but he pleaded guilty rather than face another trial. Antar served six years in prison. As of May 2000 about $120 million was found in bank accounts kept around the globe by Eddie Antar (TWICE, May 11, 2000).
When asked if Antar's involvement will be a detriment to the new operation, Jones said, "If it was he wouldn't be here. Eddie's focus is on marketing. No one has ever been convicted of excellent marketing and customer service."
Jones added, "Once the industry sees what kind of business we are doing, the old perceptions will disappear."