Paul Bochner doesn’t mince words. The founder of Electronic Concepts in North Rochelle Park, New Jersey, is too busy having fun. “We’re in the business of selling toys, and, if you don’t love the stuff you’re selling,” he says, “you can’t possibly love your job.”
He reflects for a moment before confirming, with a playful smile, “I love my job.”
To merely speak with Paul over the phone, let alone step foot in his award-winning showroom, is to understand immediately that he does indeed love his job. At Electronic Concepts, every system, from the most lavish home theater to the most sophisticated hi-fi, is designed by Paul, and he is personally involved with every installation, whether new construction or retrofit. In this way, he ensures that projects are conceived and executed according to the industry’s highest standard—one might say with love.
Like so many others in the audio/video industry, Paul started small.
“I got my start in the industry in 1998,” he recalls. “Back in those days, I was busting shoplifters for Macy’s and Neiman Marcus. I met a guy who was working in A/V, and I was obsessed with car audio at the time, so we hit it off. He hired me to pull wire and taught me a lot…”
Eventually, Paul and his mentor became the exclusive install team for Talk of the Town Video in Allendale, New Jersey.
“This was when home theater was really blowing up,” Paul explains. After a few happy years with Talk of the Town, Paul, on a complete whim, answered an ad on Monster.com—the pioneering job-search app. “I thought it would be funny,” he admits. The very next day, he received a call from Electronic Environments, the highly regarded Manhattan-based smart-home automation company. “I was hired on the spot!”
That chance encounter led to ten amazing years with EENY—and an invaluable education in the installation/automation business. Yet Paul wanted more.
In 2004, he laid the foundation for Electronic Concepts, taking small jobs for a growing circle of friends and family in and around New York and New Jersey. By 2012, ECNY was well on its way. Paul had decided to focus entirely on his own business and the company expanded quickly.
“In the first year alone, we grew from my 9’ x 9’ guestroom, to my basement, to a storage facility, to a small office, to a full-on showroom!”
When it comes to producing good sound, timing is everything. The same is true for Paul and ECNY. “We fell into the showroom space,” he explains. “Talk of the Town closed and liquidated a ton of their gear and stock to us. CSA Audio [formerly in Upper Montclair, NJ] also closed its doors. We quickly became the go-to spot in Bergen County for shiny, sexy toys.”
Three Questions for Paul Bochner—Founder, Electronic Concepts:
1. Do you have a strong relationship with AudioQuest’s Customer Service team?
Dennis, our sales manager, has dealt with the team on numerous occasions. Always a pleasure and never an issue. Personally, I have dealt with many members of the AudioQuest Sales team and I couldn’t be happier.
2. Would you recommend AudioQuest products to other integrators?
100%. I often sit with other integrators over lunch and I’m always pushing them to make the jump. There is no reason for them not to be doing AQ over the mass-produced junk out there.
3. Do you belong to a buying group? If so, how has it helped your business?
We’re in Azione. It has been a huge help to our business. The time we get with the manufacturers and other integrators to share ideas, stories, and success has been invaluable. I get more out of the buying group events than I do any other industry event during the year. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to make the move.
SHINY, SEXY TOYS
Despite boasting a state-of-the-art showroom with a dedicated theater and a wealth of high-end hi-fi, including world-class products from Bowers & Wilkins, D’Agostino Master Audio Systems, McIntosh, Meridian, Simaudio, and more, Electronic Concepts remains decidedly focused on the custom-install market. Why?
“We have survived because our main focus is—and always will be—custom. I don’t think stereo stores can survive much longer on their own,” Paul laments. Still, his natural inclination for performance is clearly evident.
“Our goal is to fit performance audio and other high-end products into our CI work. This is not just fun—it’s also profitable.”
And here is where Electronic Concepts’ relationship with the high-performance cable supplier AudioQuest comes clearly into focus. When asked to describe his company’s defining characteristics, Paul hesitates, searches for just the right words, hopes to avoid sounding self-important or arrogant.
He is neither, of course. “Wow. How not to sound like an asshat here,” he says before settling on one simple word: Honesty.
“We do not sell people stuff they don’t need,” he says unequivocally. “There is no snake oil here, and I often talk clients out of buying certain things, which may not sound profitable at first, but I would far rather guide my clients correctly and have them become a repeat customer than try to maximize a one-time sale and never see that customer again.”
Like AudioQuest, Paul and his team are interested in making meaningful, lasting connections. He also takes pride in his team’s resourcefulness, their ability to adapt to a wide variety of situations, and, most of all, their desire to exceed expectations. “We do more with less,” he says. “We are extremely efficient, which is the main reason for our success. We have an amazing team. We all share the load and we accomplish more than the next guy with less.”
Again, he pauses, reflects. “I would have no chance without my team.”
He views AudioQuest as an extension of that team.
SELLING A SUPERIOR
Product & Service
Paul’s relationship with AudioQuest goes back almost to the beginning of his days in the CI industry.
“I was first introduced to AudioQuest when I was at Talk of the Town,” he explains. “Today, we carry a ton of AudioQuest product—not only because I’m a fan, but also because of the AQ team and their outstanding support, both sales and technical.”
ECNY appreciates the diversity of the AudioQuest product range.
“We only use AQ in our racks—even on the smallest jobs,” Paul notes. “It’s a superior product and [compared against other familiar brands] the cost difference is minimal. It’s not hard to convince a client to spend 2% more on their project for a name brand.”
For many, perfectionist wire is prohibitively expensive. They’d rather allocate their clients’ funds elsewhere. Paul does not adhere to this ideology. “We recently switched all—and I mean all—of our HDMI cable business to AudioQuest. After we did the math, it was a no-brainer. Again, it’s a small percentage more for a much better product.”
It doesn’t hurt that AudioQuest products are as beautiful physically as they are sonically. Step into ECNY, take a look around the showroom, and you’re likely to see many AudioQuest products—speaker cables, interconnects, AC power, and more.
“Our showroom is filled with AudioQuest,” Paul confirms. “At the end of the day, it comes down to being able to sell a superior product and service. The AQ line has a product for all of our clients, and the products not only perform better, they also look better.”
Like ECNY, AudioQuest has proven to be extremely adaptable and accommodating.
“We have had projects where the layouts of the system required custom lengths, ends, and breakouts for monoblock power amps. Even in our showroom, we have some setups that require extra-long ends, so that cables could be used with certain amplifiers. The fact that getting this done with AQ is so simple, and that there is no charge for it, is the story itself. AQ is allowing us to sell a better product into our systems (including our own), even when those products need to be almost fully customized. There are very few—and I mean very few—manufacturers out there that are willing to do this and do it well. I have hundreds of satisfied clients with AQ product.”
Thus, AudioQuest meets ECNY’s most important criteria, delivering shiny, sexy toys for as many people as possible—the exact type of products that Paul and his team love to sell. And they do so with honesty and…efficiency isn’t exactly the right word—let’s instead call it passion.
HONESTY & PASSION
We’re in the business of selling toys, and, if you don’t love the stuff you’re selling, you can’t possibly love your job.”—Paul Bochner
“The ultimate goal,” Paul says, “is to sell awesome toys that we can make a profit on—and to keep being able to sell and play with these toys for as long as we can.”
It’s a goal sustained by passion and performance. Paul explains: “I think in a world saturated with audio guys and custom installers every 25 feet apart—especially in our market, here in the northeast—we are unique because we’re selling a much higher-level product and doing so with far fewer resources than the next guy. We are trying to help customers understand what quality is and working with them to exceed their expectations.”
But what drives that passion? What aspect of Electronic Concepts’ business makes Paul and his team happiest?
“Completing sick projects fast,” Paul says. “Hi-fi, automation, home theater—doesn’t matter. Seeing a client’s face light up or getting that email after the client finally had the time to listen to their new system or to just watch a movie—and they sound like a kid who just got their first bike… I live for that.
“Doing what other firms can’t—” Paul continues. “Receiving emails from clients about our team and how amazing they are—that’s the best… Meeting people that love music as much as I do—people who want to hear that music in its truest form…”
And how does the ECNY team meet those people?
LISTENING & ENGAGING
Once people are in the store, it merely takes getting them to sit down, relax, and listen. That includes listening to cables.
“Personally, the science and tech behind AudioQuest’s power cords gets me in full dork mode,” Paul admits. “I would say it’s easier to sell power cords than speaker cable because the science is there. Too many old-school guys got burned from the early days of speaker cables, and some of them just refuse to believe a speaker cable can make that much difference. But we do a power cord swap for them, and they’re sold!”
Today’s younger customers, whose experience with audio is limited to disposable headphones and cheap plastic speakers, pose a different set of challenges—one that Paul and his team are eager to confront.
“In general, I feel like the industry is losing the youth. They want better sound, but they don’t know what that means. They need a lot of help, which requires a lot of patience, but it is totally worth the effort. Getting clients to understand why they should spend more on a quality product is what fuels me.”
Beyond the brick-and-mortar showroom, valuable connections are also made in the seemingly limitless virtual space of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
“I’m addicted to social media,” Paul says. “We’ve built quite a following over the last few years, and our audience is made of people from all over the world. Lots of firms still don’t understand how important this is. Even though we may not be making direct sales from it, we are connecting with thousands of people, educating them, and keeping them informed about the cool toys we have in the store.”
In this way, both in the store and online, ECNY makes and cultivates meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships.
ECNY AND AUDIOQUEST:
All About Relationships
“We’re all about relationships in this business,” Paul confirms. “The good ones are invaluable. I can say wholeheartedly that AudioQuest has been an amazing partner for ECNY. Being able to deliver a high-end product not only to the elite, but to the person who just loves audio—”
Paul’s words trail off. His playful smile returns.
“It’s not a bad gig,” he says.
Electronic Concepts is located at 174 Route-17 in Rochelle Park, NJ. To learn more, call (201) 880-1872, visit ecny.net, or follow them on Instagram at www.instagram.com/electronicconcepts.
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Nancy is a contributing editor for Connected Design