A Tribute to Walter F. Shanahan
On Wednesday December 9, 2009, we said goodbye to a business leader and true gentleman - the founder of Shanahan Sound and Electronics, Inc., and my father, Walter F. Shanahan. In tribute I want to share a bit about our history and about the man who gave Shanahan Sound and Electronics the culture of service and innovation that exists to this day.
In 1951, my father started Shanahan Radio and Television in a small shop in Lowell, MA. When customers could not bring their televisions or radios into the shop, Dad would go to them. Quickly establishing himself for his dedication to customers and his knowledge of electronics, he became the first to offer in-home service in the area. Legend has it that his "service vehicle" was larger than his shop.
As kids, my older siblings recall seeing televisions on the sidewalk in front of the shop so Dad would have enough room on his repair bench to work. Nothing prevented him from getting the job done and as a result, Shanahan Radio and Television became widely known through word of mouth and grew into one of the largest sales and service centers in Massachusetts.
A natural businessman and marketer, he blazed his own trail. He would place ads in the paper or in the shop windows with a deliberately misspelled word to see what, and if, people were reading. When someone would come into the store to tell him about the misspelling, he would thank them, engage them in conversation and more often than not sell them a new television or radio. When the store's interior was destroyed in a 1960 Christmas Day fire and the windows had yet to be repaired, Dad's unstoppable spirit could be seen in his advertising, which he changed to say, "Come to the store with the wooden windows." It was memorable and it worked.
During his wake and funeral, I heard so many stories about him. Everyone told me what a gentleman he was: a man who commanded respect without demanding it, a man always known as Mr. Shanahan. One of his local competitors, Jerry Soucy, shared a story that embodies so much of who my father was. Years ago when multiple dealers were on a business junket to Puerto Rico (having won trips for product sales), the engine of the plane caught fire on takeoff and everyone had to return to their hotels and stay an extra night. By the time Jerry and his wife Eileen got back to the hotel all the rooms were taken. Eileen was 7 ½ months pregnant and exhausted. My father, without hesitation, went across the lobby and gave his room to the couple. He took no money for the room and to this day no one knows where my dad and mom stayed that evening.
Shanahan Sound is still in business today because of the foundation Walter Shanahan laid. As technology changed and progressed, he realized the importance of staying at the forefront of these changes. As an organization, we moved from tube amplifiers to transistor radios to embracing today's digital technologies - staying current with monumental changes in the fast-paced consumer electronics and commercial sound, and video market. He was creative, he was innovative and he always made an impression. For years after his retirement in 1979, people would come into the shop asking for "the man in the bowtie."
He will be missed by many. In business and in life he leaves a strong legacy and will be remembered fondly for all that he has done for Shanahan Sound but mostly for all that he was to me and my seven brothers and sisters - a loving father.
As his daughter, I began each day with my father telling me to, "Make it a good one and take it careful." I will sorely miss my best consultant, lifelong champion and biggest cheerleader.
President, Shanahan Sound and Electronics
In Loving Memory of Walter F. Shanahan
November 5, 1919 - December 9, 2009