We are highlighting local businesses that remain open during the coronavirus crisis. You can find hundreds of them listed on our website https://santabarbara.open4biz.us/. One of them is Santa Barbara Auto Stereo & Wireless.
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Alan Gold has been in business on the corner of State and Las Positas for 32 years. The car stereo part of his business has been shut down for weeks because of business and social distancing restrictions from the coronavirus, but he is available to meet people's wireless needs.
"Very fortunately because I am a full-fledged Verizon agent, they have deemed me an essential business," Gold said.
Gold is thankful to the community for supporting his business over three decades, and he feels fortunate that his wireless business has remained steady during difficult times during the month of March.
He's continuing to pay the salaries of his two full-time employees who primarily work on auto installations who cannot work right now.
"I am supporting my employees 100 percent," Gold said.
Having to pay rent on the building he's in - and his employees with the car stereo part of his business on hold - Gold has applied for a small business loan through the Federal Government.
It's a forgivable Small Business Association $10,000 loan that Gold wanted to make sure other business owners like him knew about. The application can be found at this link: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/
One would be hard pressed to find anyone with more knowledge of the wireless industry than Alan Gold. The year he graduated from UC Santa Barbara he started selling 12-foot satellite systems allowing people to watch television channels from across the country. The average price of those huge dishes back then was $4,500. Gold says it took seven years for TV stations to figure out how to encrypt their signals and block people from watching them on satellite.
"I'm showing them channels like MTV and ESPN that they've never even heard of," Gold said.
He installed dishes for Jimmy Connors and Bo Derek in Santa Ynez where there was zero cable penetration at the time. He also set up various bars and restaurants around Santa Barbara.
"You were watching every game," Gold said.
After five years of selling satellites off of a flatbed truck on the corner of State Street and Las Positas in Santa Barbara, Gold bought the business at that spot and he's been there ever since.
Gold continued selling satellite service and he still does today (the much smaller, less costly kind where you don't get all the channels unless you pay for them).
Big technological changes came in 1988 with compact discs and car phones. In his first year in business, Gold was busy installing new stereos to play CDs when a sales rep came in and asked if he could put a phone in the car.
"At that time it was a joke," Gold said. "What do you need a phone in the car for?"
He installed them, and when phones started moving out of the car, he started selling them, and the mobile plans that power them.
"In today's world you're used to stores that just do cellular only," Gold said. "When cellular began, it began as an add-on to stores like myself. You had to have technical ability."
Gold thinks he is one of the first sole proprietor wireless service representatives in the country, and - having done it continuously since 1988 - he is definitely among the longest tenured in the business.
When the shelter at home and social distancing measures are lifted, he says his business will continue incorporating new technology into cars like Android Auto and Apple Car Play.
For all the advancing technology and wireless knowledge inside the store, the exterior remains a relic. The building Gold leases was a gas station in the 1960s, and it basically looks the same now as it did then.
In 2018, four gas tanks were found buried underneath the asphalt. Chain link fencing has been up around the property while various agencies figure out how to clear out the tanks.
Open for business signs are attached to the fencing to let people know they can still come inside. Gold hopes business and the overall economy can return to normal before the year's long process of removing the underground gas tanks is completed.
"This is all about just being able to hang on through these several months until they can figure out how to circumvent what we're dealing with," Gold said. "My hope is to be back in full swing and provide everything I can for the vehicles, do my full cellular work and everything possible that I've done before. I'm pretty confident that this will occur."