Alan Gold has a self-described background in satellite television, an interest he developed years ago when TV wasn’t readily available to him.
The owner of Santa Barbara Auto Stereo & Wireless grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and says he didn’t know much about stereos, televisions or cell phones back then.
Watching live television wasn’t common, and viewing many programs required turning on the TV and radio for an English translation.
So when live television — including boxing matches with greats like Muhammad Ali — came to the unincorporated U.S. territory in the 1970s, Gold took notice of how.
In the simplest form of Gold’s story, an interest in satellite dishes brought Gold to Santa Barbara and the corner of Las Positas Road and State Street, where he sold dishes from a spot in front of the stereo shop before going to work for the then-owner.
Gold, 52, took over ownership in 1988, or what he refers to as “the first year of the car CD.”
March will mark 25 years of guiding the store at 3234 State St. through the eras of the 4-track, 8-track, cassette tape, CD, video, cell phone and now the smart phone.
The change has been so drastic that Gold added the “Wireless” to the business name about four years ago.
Last week, Gold handled customers with the knowledge of a true salesman, putting his UCSB business economics degree to good use.
Although his shop is cozy, the space formerly occupied by a gas station has helped him earn enough profits to stay open through tough economic times.
Many of the employees who started working at the stereo shop more than 25 years ago are still there in the same location the store has been since 1972. The shop originally opened in 1967, farther west on State Street.
“That’s a time warp,” said Gold, smiling as he recalled a woman leaving the area for decades before returning to find the same employees still at the store.
He credited the store’s ability to adapt and integrate the stereo, TV and cell phones into the car.
“People know us as the shop on Las Positas and State streets,” Gold said. “The visibility is the most important thing. I think it’s the combination. Just trying to pay attention to the customer. I have a local clientele.”
Gold joked that it’s a good thing he has always been in business because now he is helping put his twin 20-year-old daughters through college.
Selling 70 to 80 iPhones a month, Gold said the cell phone has easily outpaced the stereo as the most popular high school graduation gift.
The No. 1 question customers ask now is how to get their Apple devices to play music in their cars.
Because a car is still relevant in that scenario, Gold is confident he’ll be open for at least another 25 years.
“The whole integration of the car ... that’s the future,” he said. “Everyone has devices. That whole world has changed. The phones dictate. I’m so glad that I’m part of that.”