Sandy Riekeman is trying to keep everything about her father’s electronics shop alive, from the finch to the houseplants to the very idea of a 50-year-old, family-owned electronics company surviving in the Internet age.
Well, to be honest, she won't be sorry to see the finch go.
“My dad had the idea of building this cage that would be easy to clean,” Riekeman said of the birdcage just inside the door of Lloyd's Electronics on Harry. “The finches didn't cooperate.”
Lloyd’s is about as far from the typical big-box electronics store as you can imagine, both in appearance and content. There’s a kitten named Callie behind the counter and a parrot named KC – formerly the star of the shop’s television commercials – in the back room. There are houseplants and stained-glass mobiles and a beer can collection along the walls.
And, oh yeah, there are about 100,000 pieces of electronics components spread over two rooms and a house next door used for storage. That inventory makes Lloyd’s the only shop of its kind in Wichita, Riekeman said.
“Big-box stores sell consumer electronics,” she said. “We sell all the little things that are in consumer electronics.”
Sandy’s parents, Lloyd and Joyce Riekeman, opened the store in 1963 as Lafayette Radio, affiliated with a radio manufacturer of that name and carrying everything from stereos to CB radios. They changed the store’s name to Lloyd’s and expanded to other manufacturers’ products in 1969.
In 1981, with discount stores entering the market, they decided to focus mostly on electronic components – transistors, resistors, capacitors and the like.
Sandy started working there after high school and took over in 1990, though her dad continued to come to the shop until his death in 2008. Her mother lives in a nursing home.
Despite offering the biggest selection of electronic components around, Riekeman said it’s tough for the store to survive. For one thing, many electronic products these days are cheaper to replace than repair.
When a product can be repaired, parts can be ordered off the Internet at the same price Lloyd’s charges, Riekeman said.
What's Lloyd’s offers is convenience.
“They can come here and get this stuff and they don't have to wait a week,” she said.
And expertise. Technician Mel Jones has been working at Lloyd’s for 30 years. He can fix just about anything involving electronics or offer advice on how to do so, Riekeman said.
Riekeman is always looking for ways to increase business, such as turning one room into a space for consignment sales, vintage electronic gear and a discount bin. Need a polarity switch? Lloyd’s has them – for 25 cents.
She found a demand for metal detectors although she doesn't stock many because they turned out to be the target of two break-ins. She recently started carrying video surveillance systems and a new line of audio components.
“I want to stay open as long as I can because we’ve got a lot of loyal customers.”
Then there's the memory of her father, a man of many interests whose fingerprints are all over the shop.
The finches, for instance.
“They bred like rabbits,” Riekeman said. “At one time we had over 40 finches. Now there’s one lone finch. When he’s gone, we’re done.”
But only with finches, she clarifies.
“We’re trying to stay alive.”