NEW YORK –
David Wasserman admits
he’s no audio hobbyist.
For him, the thrill of founding and running
Stereo Exchange, a Greenwich Village
institution, is in “turning customers on
to something new and coming up with good
solutions for them.”
That formula has seen the company through
27 years in Manhattan, arguably the country’s
toughest market, where a multitude of heralded audio
specialists like Arrow, Audio Exchange, Leonard’s and more
recently Harvey Electronics have come and gone.
“Customers can drive you crazy,” including some of his
celebrity clientele, “but I always go the extra mile for them,”
Wasserman said, and his good-karma philosophy extends to
vendors and even his landlord. “I don’t believe in squeezing
people for the last dollar. In the end, relationships and goodwill
are more important.”
Good employees are also cherished and treated like family.
“What is any business about but its employees, and how they
treat your company?” he observed.
Another key tenet is willingness to change, which Wasserman
has demonstrated throughout his career. Starting out as
a seller of pre-owned audio gear, he dropped that business in
2000 amid the growth of eBay, only to re-enter it again more
modestly as a way to help customers trade up.
The hybrid dealer and custom installer was also an early
advocate of computer audio, and dropped TV when panels
became commoditized. Instead, he provides them on special
order through distributors or refers customers elsewhere for
displays — just as he dissuades them from home-theater purchases
if two-channel audio is more appropriate for their listening
Wasserman is also a big booster of his buying group, Home
Technology Specialist of America (HTSA), which has provided
him with invaluable vendor contact and best-practices
sharing for the past 11 years.
Today the company focuses on demonstrating
super-premium performance audio
from its recently redesigned, 7,800-squarefoot
showroom and six listening rooms on
lower Broadway, at the nexus of the trendy
SoHo and NoHo districts. The area, which
was dicey when the store first opened several
blocks north in 1984, is now brimming with
boutiques and national chains including Best Buy,
which took up residence directly across the street.
“It got me a little nervous at first,” Wasserman recalled, “but
they bring people to the area. They do what they do well, but
whoever shops there is not our customer.”