Kadair’s originated from humble beginnings in 1946, in a garage belonging to Sam and Ruby Kadair. Three years later, they moved into their first retail location. At the time, the business consisted of processing/printing black & white film from corner drugstores in the neighborhood, and the sale of camera and photographic supplies. Early on, however, the Kadairs realized that a diversified product mix was necessary to stay competitive, so in 1958, they added Pioneer stereo components, Garrard turntables, Altec Lansing speakers, and color and B&W TVs to their offerings.
Through the years, the business grew to four locations. When son Howard bought the business from his parents in 1984, he consolidated to the two locations Kadair’s comprises today (on Essen and on Florida). Each location consists of over 6,000 square feet of retail space. The CE division is about 65% of the area, due to the sheer size of the equipment and the fact that entire rooms are devoted to home entertainment. Their website, www.kadairs.com, is both a practical tool for online ordering and a portal that introduces consumers to the business. The majority of Kadair’s customers are consumers, though they do cater to pro photographers in the area as well.
Including Howard Kadair, his oldest son, Scott, and Howard’s sister Elizabeth Kadair Smith, there are 32 employees split between the two locations. Twenty-two are at the Florida location, 10 at the Essen location. The Florida location houses the B&W and E-6 labs, CI, service, accounting, and marketing departments for the business. Howard, who is owner and president, works out of the Florida location; Elizabeth is vice president and works out of the Essen store.
Continuing in the family business is important for Howard, the oldest of Sam and Ruby’s seven children. From a young age, he’s known it’s what he wanted to do with his life. “It means everything to me to be able to follow in my parents’ footsteps, and to continue the success of the business they began,” he says. “I’ve always found great enjoyment in it.”
This year, Kadair’s celebrates its 60th anniversary. Howard explains the company’s longevity: “The commitment to keeping ahead of trends and our continuing education through organizations of which we are members have kept us successful.” The Kadairs have been members of the PRO Group for nearly 40 years, in addition to belonging to PMA, IPI, CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association), and PARA (Professional Audio Video Retailers Association). “Our commitment to our customers, to give them quality products/services along with superior care, has been a vital part as well,” he adds.
Early Adopters of Custom Installations
Kadair’s began contracting home installations in 1985, and in 2001 they added a Custom Installation (CI) department. The addition of custom installations was due to Howard’s insight, watching the trends, and noticing the market moving in that direction. “The decision to get into CE was a conscious one; we’ve tended to be very early adopters of trends in all facets of the business. It’s like a good gumbo—lots of ingredients combined to make something very special,” he says, his Louisiana heritage showing through.
“We wanted to expand into the home entertainment market, and knew we needed to establish an in-house CI department as a foundation for this,” says Howard. “Custom installations refer to wiring a space for future home entertainment, security, and other automated functions.”
“Sports theater and custom cinema are two types of home entertainment rooms that can be put into a client’s commercial or residential space,” he adds. A sports theater is a theme-based room that can be customized for a fan with team colors and logos, while a custom cinema is a dedicated room designed to give clients the “movie theater” experience in their homes by incorporating components that offer the most optimal viewing and high-quality sound and acoustics conditions.
Customers make their way to Kadair’s in a variety of ways, including directly and through contractors and interior designers. According to Howard, Kadair’s installs 98% of the equipment they sell. “When clients come here, for the most part, they are looking to us as experts who will install for them,” he says.
Photo Roots Firmly Planted in the Business
The breakdown between photo and consumer electronics products is about 60/40 in favor of home electronics, based on sheer dollar volume. “It always has been this way,” explains Howard, “based on a typical home electronics sale versus a typical processing/printing sale.” But that doesn’t mean that photo takes a back seat to electronics at Kadair’s. The business offers a full selection of photographic services, including: the sale of cameras and other photographic products, in-house wide-format printing and digital retouching, and movie- and video-to-DVD conversions. “We also have most of our services on-site so customers know the work is going to stay with us—locally,” explains Howard.
Earlier this year Kadair’s installed a new Fuji Frontier 570 digital minilab, and they recently opened digital print cafés at both locations. As with many other photo specialty dealers and minilab owners across the country, Kadair’s has decided to dedicate an area in each store specifically designed for digital printing kiosks. “We designed it with the intent of creating an environment for people who are looking for an alternative to ordering digital output—the comfort of a coffeehouse versus the overly noisy hustle and bustle of a mass merchant,” explains Howard. “As an added benefit to customers, there’s a help desk to assist them in ordering digital images—something they aren’t able to get at a big box or even at their own home computer.” The idea originated from their association with the PRO Group, after hearing about the many success stories other retailers have had with this type of setup.
Classes have been an important part of the business—they’ve been offered for the last 10 years. “We now offer a basic photography class and a digital photography class. One of the most popular topics in the basic class tends to be black-and-white photography,” explains Howard.
For Kadair’s, the photo products and services and the consumer electronics products and services are a complement to each other. “Not only is the photo/CE mix complementary, it is an advantage.” Howard explains. “Not many stores can demonstrate a digital camera, take the card out of it and pop it into a kiosk to print a print, and then insert it into a television to view that same image in a ‘slideshow’ format.”
One of the reasons that Howard has felt he’s been able to keep such a large part of the business focused on photo is through his affiliation with PRO. He says of the PRO Group: “They provide us with a pipeline of information to stay ahead of industry trends. This is helpful in bringing services to our area before other companies can, and, therefore, allows us to have a head start with our customer base.”