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Industry Mourns Bob Abt

Bob Abt, CEO of Chicagoland retail institution Abt Electronics, died late last month at the age of 77. Abt and his four sons — Michael, Ricky, Billy and Jon — ran the family’s single 37-acre mega retail facility in Glenview, Ill. Abt ran one of the largest single-store retailers in the U.S., a pioneer in authorized CE e-tailing and a proving ground for many CE and majap introductions. He was a soft-spoken, self-described “average guy,” known as a creative genius with a gift for marketing and merchandising. He has also been named a member of the CE Hall Of Fame.

Gary Shapiro, Consumer Electronics Association: “Our industry has lost a true innovator who progressively grew the Chicago store founded by his parents — CE Hall of Famers David and Jewel Abt — in 1936 into one of the nation’s most exciting and successful consumer electronics stores. Bob was widely known and admired within the industry for his emphasis on customer service, his embrace of new product categories and for being a pioneer in authorized online sales. He also was widely praised for his marketing prowess. His showrooms included among the first single-brand showcases as well as attractions for families and kids including fresh-baked cookies made onsite every weekend.”

Mike Fasulo, president of Sony Electronics: “We have lost a true industry leader and an incredible person in Bob Abt. Bob will be missed very much by everyone who knew him. Bob had a passion for electronics that is unsurpassed. He was inspiring in his vision to bring the best and most innovative retail experience our industry has ever seen and had an unrelenting commitment to his customers and partners. He touched many people at Sony, both here in the U.S. as well as Japan. Many of us, myself especially, considered Bob a dear, loyal friend. He will be fondly remembered and is a lifetime member of the Sony family. Society lost one of the greatest ever; however, I am confident that his sons, Mike and Jon, will carry his legacy forward and we at Sony will remain committed to do the same.”

Frank Di Bartolo, Pacific Hi Fi Australia: “Although I never met Bob Abt in person, my brothers and I have been in awe of the wonderful business he and his sons have built in Chicago. The Abt reputation is well known to many of us Down Under. I’ll never forget the hospitality we were shown when we called into the store more that a decade ago.”

Kristopher Kubicki, Market Track: “Bob Abt was my friend and mentor. He was a retail visionary, but more importantly he was a wonderful individual and family man. I will miss him greatly.”

Warren Mann, New Leaf Service Contracts: “Having been blessed in my career to work with some of the industry’s greatest merchants — Rose Blumkin, Walter Bruckhart or Lee Guttman for example — it was sad to read about the passing of another icon, Bob Abt. He built a unique entity and turned countless customers and vendors into friends along the way. Revered head of one of the nation’s most successful retailers, his vision, hard work, and creativity will live on through his sons.”

Steve Smith, TWICE: “Bob Abt was not only one of the best retail innovators in this industry, he was also one of the nicest guys to deal with.”

Dave Workman, ProSource: “Our industry has lost one of the true visionaries of CE and appliance retailing. The Abt store in Chicago will stand forever as a statement to Bob and what he meant to our business.”

Bill Fox, Sound & Vision: “Our industry has lost one of its best. Bob was absolutely unique and the business that he built is also in a class by itself. Bob was an incredibly astute businessman with a heart of gold. He was one of a kind and will be missed by all.”

Doug Henderson, B&W Group: “Bob Abt was one-in-a-million visionary in an industry that has few of those and an incredibly driven but yet down to earth man. His story is legendary, and the Abt store a monument to his hard work, passion and big thinking. It was an honor for me to get to know him over the past couple of years and do business with him. He’ll be missed.”