BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — When Samuel Clouse built the two-story commercial structure at 111 W. Wayne St., his customers still arrived on foot or by horse-drawn wagon.
Monte’s, named for Samuel’s son, opened as a hardware store in Maumee’s commercial district in 1903.
“One hundred and seventeen years. That’s quite a history. It has to be the oldest business in Maumee with the same name,” said Mark Nowak, owner of Monte’s TV Repair.
Over the next few weeks, Mark will be emptying out the building and selling TV sets of all ages as he makes way for a new family to move into the building.
Dean Horrigan, an attorney who specializes in elder law, plans to renovate the first floor into an office for Elder Advocate and Estate LLC. Horrigan and his wife, Kerry, will also transform the top floor into living quarters.
Mark, a 1972 Maumee High School graduate, was brought home from the hospital at two days old and lived in the upstairs apartment with his parents, Richard and Donna. As a kid, he worked alongside his father and grandfather, Chester, in the family business. Selling the business is bittersweet, he said. While it gives him an opportunity to repair muscle cars and enjoy outdoor sports with his wife, Jacqueline, it also closes a chapter on a multi-generation business.
After Samuel Clouse retired, Monte took over. In a 1932 phone book, Monte’s is listed as a tire and accessory store. Other area businesses at the time included the Comfort Hotel and Restaurant at 128 W. Wayne and several tonsoralists (hairdressers).
While Monte sold the business to Mark’s grandfather, Chester Nowak, in 1946, the name remained.
“My grandfather was frugal. He said, ‘Signs are expensive. There’s nothing wrong with it.’ So the sign – and the name – remained,” Mark said.
Chester made changes to keep up with the times. In the mid-1950s, he dropped the automotive parts and tires, as cars became more complicated and the motoring public spent less time repairing their own vehicles. As TVs came onto the market, Monte’s became an authorized distributor for Zenith and RCA.
When Richard returned home after serving in the National Guard, he was recently educated in electronics and radios and began working in the shop. Richard took over the business in 1969, although Chester still came into the shop to help with repairs. Mark’s brothers, Dale and Dean, also worked at Monte’s at various times, but it was Mark who took over for his dad in 1996.
“I’ve been working here since I was 15. It was expected – I’m the oldest of three. My dad followed my grandfather and taught me electronics,” Mark said, adding that he also took radio and TV classes at what is now Penta Career Center.
In the 1950s, Maumee had four TV and radio repair shops and, in the Toledo area, at least 10 manufacturers’ warehouses that were stocked with parts. As a kid, Mark remembers accompanying his grandfather in driving around to different warehouses to get parts.
Older TVs were built to last 20 or 30 years. A TV console, which also had a record player and stereo, could cost up to $600 to $700. Compared to the cost of a new car at $1,900, TV owners didn’t have any option but to repair a TV.
“We stood behind our work,” Mark said.
Yet several changes marked a slow decline for the TV repair business.
As TVs became more compact and affordable, manufacturers also stopped requiring that dealers offer repairs. Soon, Monte’s found competition from appliance stores that bought in mass quantities and could sell TVs at a lower price.
As cheaper models came out, customers began buying new rather than repairing. Soon, finding parts was difficult, and Mark said he would take parts off of other TVs to make repairs.
The biggest change to the industry came in 2012, when the Federal Communications Commission decided that all TV broadcasts should switch from analog to digital.
“The average consumer had the opinion that when they got rid of the analog signal that their old TVs wouldn’t work. That wasn’t true,” he said.
Those old TVs work great for gaming, in particular, customers tell him, because they operate and recover faster than flat-panel TVs. Currently, Mark is selling off as many TVs as possible.
With his departure, only one TV repair shop remains in the Toledo area, but Mark said he may continue doing some repairs from home – using the same number that Monte’s has had for years: (419) 893-3221.