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After 78 years, Roberts Audio leaving New London for Waterford

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published October 05. 2012 4:00AM
Tim Martin/The Day
Rob Grabon, left, and Barry Levinson, co-owners of Roberts Audio-Video, shown Thursday in their Bank Street storefront in New London, will be relocating the business to Waterford.

New London - Roberts, a name synonymous with sound in southeastern Connecticut, is leaving Bank Street for Broad Street in Waterford, a move the audio-video store's partners attributed Thursday to a confluence of events.

"Rob's been looking at the (Waterford) location for a couple of years," said Barry Levinson, the recently retired owner who turned Roberts Audio Video over to Rob Grabon. "Our lease here was up and the landlord was looking for long-term tenants, so it seemed like strategically this was the right move at the right time."

Roberts' relocation recalls the 2006 departure of Mallove's Jewelers, a downtown New London fixture for 87 years before its move to Waterford.

The Levinson family has been doing business in the city since 1934, when Barry's father Robert started selling appliances on Bank Street. In the 1950s, he moved the store one door down to its current 90 Bank St. location - actually two connected buildings, one of which housed The Day's first office.

During its 78 years, Roberts, originally known as The Electric Shop, sold toasters and mixers, then TVs and stereo equipment, and later records, tapes, CDs and sheet music. Eventually, Roberts outlets sprouted in Groton and Mystic.

Barry Levinson, 68, started working at Roberts in the 1970s, back when the "stereo was king," he said.

While the store now sells big-screen TVs and sophisticated audio equipment, custom in-home installations and automations represent about 80 percent of its business.

"Now we're marrying the lights, the doorlocks, the thermostats - tying it all together so they can be controlled by the tablets and smartphones people have," the 45-year-old Grabon said.

The store's move to Waterford makes sense, he said, because the new location, at 737 Broad St., just down the road from Crystal Mall, is a house. It will provide about the same square footage available at 90 Bank St., but its configuration will be more conducive to Roberts' display needs, Grabon said. Parking will be more ample, too.

Roberts is scheduled to open Nov. 1 in Waterford.

In recent years, restaurants, bars and art galleries have come to dominate Bank Street. But the good news for New London is that Roberts' leaving may not create a vacancy for long. David Spon, who bought 90 Bank St. from Barry Levinson for $600,000 in 2007, said he would use parts of the smaller, left side of the building and a potential buyer is interested in the right side.

Spon, who moved his upscale cabinet-making business, Wine Cellar Concepts, to New London several years ago, said he plans to put a showroom on the first-floor and to convert the second and third floors to apartments, one of which he will occupy.

"It's super high-end cabinetry for wine cellars," Spon said of the showroom. "It would be by appointment."

He will keep his shop on Jefferson Avenue, he said.

Another downtown retailer, Jason's Furniture, at 133 Bank St., is set to move Nov. 1 to the former Campo's Furniture site at 663 Bank St.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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