14123 Highway 281 North, San Antonio, Texas 78232
210-828-3237, bjorns.com (under construction)
Bjorn Dybdahl, president/founder
Annual Sales (for the fiscal year ended June 2003): $18 million
Number of Stores: 1
Product Mix: Mid- to high-end audio/video
San Antonio, Texas— Bjorn's industrywide reputation as best of breed in A/V specialty retailing looms larger than its single Lone Star store might suggest. But given its state-of-the-art selling floor, expert execution and marketplace dominance, the props are more than well deserved.
The man behind the curtain — or in this case in front of it — is founder Bjorn Dybdahl, a Norwegian native who began the business 28 years ago with one assistant, and has built it into a 77-person powerhouse.
The operation includes a 15,000-square-foot retail store (now in its fifth location), a 9,000-square-foot support area and, come October, a 25,000-square-foot facility containing a warehouse, service department, custom installation division (which brings in 25 percent of revenue), and a 1,800-square-foot closeout store.
Inside Bjorn's, San Antonions are bedazzled by three comparison rooms, three lifestyle rooms, a multi-zone home (with a theater in the garage), a 100-person capacity lecture room and, the piece de resistance, The Ultimate Home Theater. The seven-seat space features what is touted to be the world's only home-based 12-channel audio system, coupled with an 11-foot-wide screen brought to life by a Runco VX-5 DLP projector.
But Bjorn's greatest asset is Dybdahl himself, whose love of the business has helped make him a larger-than-life presence in the store and on the airwaves. Beginning with how-to stints on local radio talk shows, he slowly evolved into the role of front man and goodwill ambassador for both Bjorn's and home entertainment, hosting a half-hour infomercial about HD during primetime, and a series of 24 vendor-supported 90-second informational spots during "Good Morning America."
Dybdahl also lectures at local schools, does daily in-store seminars and still works the floor on Saturdays. And while he's quick to thank VP Bob White and his management team for keeping the business on track, plus his membership in PRO Group for exposing him to "power retailers," it's clearly his love of retail that's the engine behind Bjorn's.