DJzone had a chance to sitdown with Rob Kuron, good friend and owner of Pro Audio and Lighting and ask some very relevant questions why Pro Audio and Lighting is one of the top places for DJs to purchase their lighting and gear.
So Rob what are your roots in regards to the ProAAL? The business started in the back room of a car stereo shop in the 70s . It was broken off into the company known as DJ Supply in the 80s and 90s, the business was done out of a converted garage. Truly, we were the only business catering to the DJ. People would walk in and just smile. They had a place to go that was just dedicated to them. I came on as a partner in the mid 90’s, we incorporated in 1996 and opened a total of 3 stores. In 2004 I bought my partner out and operated two stores. We changed our name in 2011 to Pro Audio and Lighting to encompass all that we do in the sound and lighting world. In 2012 we opened up a 14,540 square foot facility and consolidated all locations and operations to this one awesome location. We rent, sell, repair, and install all in one facility now which makes things a lot easier. Our lighting room is one of the best in the country and I am proud of our staff and new location.
Were you a DJ at one time, if so what type of DJ were you? I have been DJing since the late 80’s. I was one of the most requested school DJs in the area for a while. Unfortunately, the music changed, and so did the kids. The day some kid told me to “F” off because I wouldn’t play some crazy unacceptable song is pretty much the time I decided to get out of schools. I was also doing bars and weddings. I really enjoyed the wedding scene and I felt like I was able to make my clients happy. I became a “high end” entertainer. My highlight gigs included DJing Detroit Red Wings’ Kirk Maltby’s wedding and events for Governor Jenifer Granholm. Every once and a while you will still catch me out at a gig or doing something.
How long has ProAAL been in business? Under a few different names we started in the 70s. I partnered up in the mid 90’s and we incorporated in 1996.
Do you carry all the major brands or do you choose to carry just the top tier as to not water down the quality of your inventory? Inventory is something I take very seriously. I have learned we cannot carry everyone’s everything. We just can’t support it and keep track of quality and issues. I have chosen to concentrate on known “reliable” brands at different price points that I can be comfortable selling. We live with our customers, so if they get bad gear, they come back to us. I want to avoid the issues, and bring in brands I can feel comfortable selling and know the manufacture will support. We offer a wide variety of price ranges, so we carry the best value and reliability that I can find in each price point. Truly, there are large companies I choose not to carry because the customer service is bad or the product is unreliable. My staff and I bring in new product, play with it, see how easy we can blow it up or break it and then decide if we will carry it. We try to put a hand on most of the items we carry at one point or another. THAT is what makes us different.
Why is it so important to you to be hands on and offer such personalized service? We are not just box pushers, we have a knowledgeable sales staff that actually tries to find the product you need instead of just what is on the shelf. Don’t get me wrong, if you just want a price match, we can do that too. We will just hand you the box and send you on your way if that is what you prefer. We ask our customers for support and hope that the time they spend with us to get educated and touch the product before they buy it is worth a few extra dollars. We hope we build a comfort level with them so they know if there is a problem they can come back to us and we can assist. We even offer training classes on many of the controllers or lighting products we sell. We offer turntable classes, mixing and Dj classes too.
Tell us about one of your oldest customers, someone that has been a customer since the beginning. It is fun to see the first customers. Some stop in just to visit, some are still in the bizz. I bump into people at concerts, or on planes, or on vacation. They realize who I am or know our company. I can’t tell you how many people say, “hey, you sold me my first turntables”, or “you got me into music”, or “I wouldn’t be doing what I am right now if it wasn’t for your store”. It is a good feeling. There are some local “known” DJs that are still in the industry that tell me about the first experiences fifteen years ago. It is fun to hear.
You guys are more than just a drop shipper, you have real retail brick and mortar stores. Does that help keep you grounded in regards to putting a face on the DJ industry? Since we have a retail store, we see Djs and musicians everyday.. face to face.. we hear about gigs, we trouble shoot problems, we find out what they need just by talking to them. (novel idea huh?) You cannot get that information from a mouse click. We can address trends and needs based on our day to day contact with customers.
What makes ProAAL different than other online sound and lighting retail stores? That is easy, our sales staff and the store. We know what we are talking about when it comes to the product we sell. If one sales person doesn’t, another should. We can answer questions, and trouble shoot issues. Most of our staff is or has been an entertainer so we can relate. Our store stands out because we take pride in it. It is constantly changing and new product is being displayed. We try to react quickly to trends or new product whenever possible and finally, our light room, our light room, our light room. We have 2 universes of DMX going displaying all of the lighting products. We have two thousand dollar fixtures next to sixty dollar products, the customer can experience EVERYTHING first hand.
What is something people may not know about your business? I think the biggest surprise to customers is our prices. They assume we are more expensive because we are an independent dealer. This is just not true, we do enough volume that we are on the same pricing levels as the big box companies, we have to advertise at a price the manufacture tells us too, but we can definitely match and beat prices. We hope you put a value on what we offer, but we don’t get upset if you ask us to match a price. We get upset if you buy somewhere else to save a few dollars after we spent time with you. Support the independents!
What do you see in ProAAL's future? I wonder that myself. The retail world is not fun right now. There is no loyalty, and many local people buy out of state just to save sales tax, even though we spend the time with them. We hope we can keep catering to people who like to deal with people and grow that business. We are doing more and more production rentals and working to grow our installation department even more. We plan on being around a long time.
If you could sum up the changes in the DJ industry over the last 5 years in one word what would that word be? INTERNET. L