About Woodbridge Stereo / Video
Woodbridge Stereo/Video was founded in 1971 by Marc Chelnik, in Woodbridge, NJ. The company began in a 1,000 square feet building selling and installing home and car stereo systems. From these humble beginnings it grew into one of America's premier home entertainment retailers.
The early years were quite successful. So much so, that in 1975 land was purchased and a new building was erected at 751 Amboy Avenue. The product selection was expanded to include higher line audio electronics and speakers and Woodbridge Stereo/Video became a significant local force in the specialty audio community. In 1978, a devastating fire destroyed the original building. Not daunted, plans were immediately begun to construct an even bigger new facility of approximately 4,000 square feet on the same site. This was completed and opened in the spring of 1979.
In 1980, Tom Altobelli joined Woodbridge Stereo/Video and the company began its expansion into High End Audio in a big way. Over the next 5 years, high end product lines from Audio Research, Threshold, Bryston, Magnepan, conrad-johnson, B&W, M.I.T., Tandberg, Revox, SME, Infinity, Quad, Wilson, California Audio, Oracle, Snell, SOTA, VPI, and many others were added. At this time Woodbridge also became one of the first to embrace the upcoming Home Theater revolution, introducing projection video systems from Advent, Kloss, and Barco (the nation's first residential consumer installer). To commemorate this, the business name was changed from Woodbridge Stereo Center to Woodbridge Stereo/Video. This was the beginnings of becoming a nationally recognized high end audio/video specialist.
With increased success came the need for additional space and locations. Our second store opened in 1984 in West Long Branch – a 2,500 square feet satellite operation offering a similar, although less exotic, mix of products. In 1985, a major remodel and expansion was undertaken at the flagship Woodbridge store; the remodel upgraded the space over 6,000 square feet and included new showroom facilities.
The business shift to integrated audio/video and distributed music systems brought with it the need for increased and more rigorous custom installation capabilities. In 1986 Craig DeAndrea and his installation firm, Safe and Sound Systems, joined Woodbridge Stereo/Video. This further expanded the Woodbridge services menu to include electronic telephony and home security.
A third store was opened in Princeton, NJ in 1987, in the Princeton Forrestal Village; a quaint but ill-fated outdoor shopping mall. Finally, two additional locations, in Montclair and West Caldwell, were added with the purchase of Purdue Radio Company in 1988. This 5-store, 50+ employee regional chain was easily New Jersey’s largest specialty home entertainment retailer, but the exuberance of the '80's was about to give way to a more somber economic reality.
In addition to the expansion of Woodbridge Stereo/Video, two other major events were taking place in the U.S. One was the downturn of the American economy in the late '80's and early '90's. The second was a major shift in high end home entertainment from a retail based (you come to us) industry to a custom installation (we come to you) one. This shift was spurred both by the full scale integration of the audio and video aspects of home electronic systems and a significant and fast-paced increase in technology. Dedicated music systems gave way to dual purpose systems where music and cinema were equal partners. New technologies made practical, for the first time, the wonders of home automation (or more properly) systems integration.
The business palette now included diverse disciplines like lighting control, distributed audio, keypad and touchscreen controllers, security, electronic telephony, motorized window shades, dedicated theater environments, HVAC control, and so forth. Woodbridge Stereo/Video was now a one-stop solution for all low-voltage disciplines. Half of Woodbridge employees were (and are still) directly related to the installation, engineering and service aspects of the business. The past five years have seen this trend continue unabated. Today, fully 85% of Woodbridge’s projects include design and installation services (see the "Custom Installation Services" section for a detailed description).
One very important thing, however, has not changed in the past 30 odd years. That is the passion and enthusiasm that infuses the team at Woodbridge Stereo/Video. The driving force that brought us into the consumer electronics field was a love and dedication to music and the technology behind it. High End Audio and Video was and is truly a labor of love; an obsession really. So often today when competitors promote themselves as "low-voltage contractors" we think, “Yikes! These guys just don't get it.” We hire contractors to paint our kitchens. For a portrait we go to an artist. The various "Associates", "Systems" and "Design Group" companies out there invariably seem to lack the history, experience and passionate dedication that make this admittedly indulgent hobby worthwhile and fun. There's a joke in our industry that the goal is to make every custom system the same. While that might help profitability, we don't think it's particularly good for our customers. After all, there's a good reason we call it custom. We take for granted that competence, robustness and ease of use will be paramount in any installation. We think our customers deserve more.