KComm The Ham Store Closing – End of an Era

A few weeks ago, we were quietly told that Craig Kennedy, owner of  KComm The Ham Store, would likely be closing his doors at the end of March. 

 March 31st was to be the last parking lot tail-gate sale.   We were asked to keep the news quiet until all the final arrangemens had been made with the employees, etc., before publicizing the news. 

During the past couple of weeks, the word was spread by rumor, by email, by phone calls, during Ham Breakfasts, etc. that the store was closing. 

The San Antonio Radio Club, W5SC, has been holding their monthly meetings in the store, and had their club station setup for visiting hams to use while at KComm.  That era has also come to an end, with the club needing to move their equipment & trailer (in back parking lot) to another location, and to find a new meeting location.   I was told today, that April’s SARC meeting will still be at KComm, but starting in the month of May, the meetings are moving to Jim’s Restaurant on San Pedro & Ramsey.

Store on Gulfdale

Yesterday, we stopped by the store around 9am to find that it was the most crowded that we’ve ever seen it, including during a SARC Club meeting night.  

Craig was playing “lets make a deal” with old equipment, furnishings, anything that wasn’t nailed down to the floor or wall it seemed. 

It was our opinion that he likely did more sales that day in a few hours, than he had likely done all month.  Several folks commented that if Kcomm had seen this much business every weekend, we wouldn’t be there for the closing today.

When I got my ham license back in the late 80’s, Kcomm The Ham Store was located over on the NW side of town, on Mobud Street, just off Loop 410, between Evers & Bandera, in a small industrial complex. 

In 1996, Craig & his dad, Tex Kennedy, bought the current property on Gulfdale and moved the store there, because folks said they needed to be in a “more central location with easier access”.   I’m not sure why this new location was anyeasier to get to, than the old one, but that’s the reason I was given for the move back then. 

Apparently, at some point 5 or 10 years ago, they were offered the chance to sell the property and lease it, sort of a reverse mortgage for business, by an investment firm out of state.  He accepted the offer and supposedly cleared a tidy profit at the time.  But when it came time for his lease to be renewed at the end of next month, the monthly rent was jacked up, too high for him to continue meeting the overhead on the decrease in business that had been happening over the past few years.

Mel told me that when he first went to work for Craig, more than 13 years ago, he usually could expect to see 10-12 radios per week that needed repairs performed.   About 40-50 radios per month.  But as the technology changed to more surface mounted components, and radios became more reliable under normal conditions (still not idiot proof), the number of repairs dropped.  For the past few years, he was seeing 15-20 radios a month or less, needing repairs, and some of them would need to be sent back to the factory for repairs due to the problem not being something a field technician could fix.

Competition from the Internet likely played a large part in the decrease in sales for new equipment, with large sellers like AES, HRO, etc. creating a web presence offering deeply discounted radios with no local sales taxes being added.  Almost anyone with a computer and a website could start selling radio equipment and accessories with very little overhead, compared to a brick & motar ham store.   As the economy weakened, local hams had less spending money, and looked harder for bargains that were usually found on the web, but then wondered why  they couldn’t get the free advice and support from the local store.  Duh!

Anyway, back to this weekend…  

Ed Larose’s last day, in fact all of the employee’s last paycheck day was Friday, March 30th.  Oscar’s office had been cleared out weeks ago, and Ed cleared his out this past week.  Mel & Tim were still wandering around the store helping customers just like the good ole days…  Craig ran the cash register and made the bargain deals, or not, with the ham customers.  The word had spread, by various means, about the closing, and parking slots out front became rare, while hams inside seeked out bargains that last week they had ignored.

 I interviewed Craig and some of the other employees about their future plans.   Ed Larose is “re grouping, but not retiring”, and has no definite plans beyond unemployement for the near future (there goes Obama’s figures back up).  Mel & Tim have some ideas, and they may end up working contract for Craig or Oscar in the future if needed.    Oscar is assuming the commercial side of the business and will continue with his existing clientele on his own.    Craig will keep the store open until near the end of April, as he sells down some of the older inventory items, and figures out where to move what’s going to be left.  Several hams on Saturday offered to come back and help Craig move when that happens. 

Craig said he & his wife talked about future plans, and although he’s personally at retirement age himself, he really hates to see San Antonio without a Ham Store locally.   He said that he’ll be looking for a new physical location (read that smaller & cheaper rent) to reopen in some form or fashion to keep a Ham Radio store available for those who prefer to deal face to face.   He said that won’t happen immediately, and probably not before the end of summer.

Craig said he will likely keep normal hours thru the next few weeks, but if in doubt call the store at  210-366-3111 to verify his status.  Without all the other employees rattling around inside the store, there may be times Craig needs to step out for other business.  The closer to the end of April, the more erratic the open hours may become, and don’t look for new inventory to be arriving during this time.   

I asked Craig about servicing / repairing radios in the meantime, and he said he would consider repairs on a “case by case basis”.  Since he has laid off all of his employees, it would depend upon him to repair, or to make arrangements to bring back Mel or Tim on a temp per job basis for the repair.

Mel told me he wouldn’t mind helping out other hams with needed repairs or ham related installations on his own, but he wasn’t going to set up shop as a ham repair tech from his house.  If  you want to reach Mel Wagner to request his services, please call his cell phone at 210-535-1278.

Here are some photos from Saturday’s happenings…  (Photos by Lee N5NTG or Andrew K5NNN)



2 Responses

  1. mike Says:

    Would they want to move in with 10bitworks hackerspace until they find a permanent new home? Some of our members are licensed and have put an antenna on our roof for their use. At some point we plan on getting a club call sign as well.

  2. Henry DeLeon (Kc5zss) Says:

    I am wanting to buy a Yaesu FTDx1200,Ham City in Culver ,Cal has them for $1325 Plus $30.80 shipping

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.