Electricraft

Electricraft
October 16, 1947 – 1984

In studying the history of the audio industry in the Pacific Northwest the name Electricraft comes up a lot, whether you are talking about remarkable audio engineers, recording studios or retail stores. Like a bookstore in Berkeley or the roundtable at the Algonquin, Electricraft has all the markings of an extremely happening place in its day, with influence spreading out in time.

Electricraft had 8 stores and did $12M (equiv of $ 46M today) in its heyday. It was started by Oliver Runchey, Sr., and was run with help from his son Oliver Runchey, Jr., his daughter Betty Hall, and his son-in-law E.M. Ted Treanor. The formal opening was held Friday night, October 16, 1947 at their Home Appliance Headquarters at 622 Union Street. Their opening ad in the Seattle Times declared their product lines as Zenith, Emerson, Motorola Radios, and their specialty, Recording and Recording equipment.

During their Grand Opening they offered free Walkie Talkies for the first 50 kids, and free voice recording for everyone. Anything you wanted to say! In August 1948 you could buy a Disc Recorder on sale for $99.50, down from $157.50. And a pack of 5 Blank Records was on sale for .29, regularly 75 cents! In 1958 they were offering the Ampex Signature Home Music System AM FM Radio Phonograph & Stereophonic Disc Changer. Call or drop by for pricing!

A summer sale in 1964 wanted to move product by Empire, Electro-Voice, Fairchild, Fisher, Grado, Kenwood, Shure, Stanton, and Tandberg. Jump to November of 1968 to find a full-blown McIntosh clinic with free replacement tubes. This is where Greg Mackie went to find parts for a guitar amp Bob Carver was designing for him in return for Greg and his friends helping Phase Linear move to larger digs. This is also where Rick Chinn, audio engineer and designer, AES Officer for 44 yrs and counting, met Greg Mackie and their friendship turned into several famous Rick-designed products for TAPCO, Audio Control, Mackie, Symetrix, and more.

Started as a family business in 1947, Electricraft  slipped away into bankruptcy in 1979, followed by the end in 1984.  Magnolia Camera (1954) grew into Magnolia Hi Fi and began siphoning off high-end sales, while Pacific Stereo (1977-1986) captured the low end long enough to hasten the Electricraft slide. Comments in the Seattle Times of the day indicate that there was a perception Electricraft did not have a clear image in the market, and the lack of differentiation hurt them while helping Magnolia and Pacific define themselves.

The company may have ended, which is always sad, but the talented people spawned our audio environment, spread the excitement, helped encourage participation, and operated companies that employed lots of people. Both shoppers and employees went on to populate the most influential audio companies, stores, projects, stations, and studios in the Pacific Northwest. We are fleshing out the details of this company, and if you ever worked at Electricraft, do not be surprised if someday an email from the Audio Industry Historical Society shows up, asking for your memories. Or you could share some here. Please leave a comment – we would love to hear from you.