Article by Cody Gerlach
VK Electronics fast forwards from movie rentals to thriving electronics store
In rural Nebraska, it can take a proactive approach to thrive in the locally owned retail industry.
For the owners of VK Electronics Home and Mobile in McCook, it’s been a wild journey since they opened their doors as a video rental store in 1983. So much that Linda Taylor said she probably wouldn’t have recognized the place 30-plus years later. But changing with the times has kept the business not only alive, but thriving.
VK Electronics now sells furniture, televisions and home entertainment equipment. The store installs state-of-the-art security systems and is an authorized dealer for DirecTV, Dish Network and HughesNet. The latest expansion has led the store into the grilling industry, dealing in top-of-the-line gas grills and smokers. Cooking classes on grilling and smoking are offered every other month.
In the beginning, though, the business was much simpler. Linda and her husband, Doug, opened Video Kingdom in McCook, buying a house — there was no store-front property available at the time — and renovating it to look like a castle. They rented movies from their store and also dealt movies to stores in surrounding communities, changing them out on a monthly basis. They decided to sell a few televisions and VCRs as well and the business quickly outgrew their space.
“One of the things about being a business owner and an entrepreneur is that you have to be ready for change,” Linda said. “When opportunities are there, you have to jump at them.”
Three years after they opened their doors, they moved into a much larger retail space along the highway next to Bonanza, a family restaurant. That space would be the business’s home for the next 26 years. There, they would expand the sales part of their business. They also bought out an electronics repair shop and retained the repairman, Roy Donner, who still works for VK Electronics today.
Fast forward through changing times
Over time, movie rentals gave way to satellite installations. Then, the business needed a security system. So VK started selling and installing home and business security systems, remaining on the cutting edge of the most recent technologies.
“We needed the system ourselves,” Linda said, “then we did the training on how to install it so we could start selling it. It’s all a matter of knowing what the needs are in your area and adapting your business to meet those needs.”
The business relocated once more in 2012, adding furniture to a large showroom floor. Over time, Linda’s son, Trevor, became an integral part of the business. He started when he was much younger, circulating the movies at the small-town locations. Now, he’s taken the lead from his mother.
“I’m trying to semi-retire,” Linda said, noting her desire to continue to help the McCook Economic Development Corporation. “Trevor is the real one carrying things forward now.”
Passion for grilling fuels latest store expansion
Trevor’s real passion has been cooking, specifically grilling and smoking foods, which led to the latest store expansion.
“So much of what we did was seasonal and we said, ‘If I sell you a couch or a TV, I might see you again in a few years,’” Trevor said. “With the grills we also carry a lot of grilling accessories and seasonings and rubs, so we get to see our customers on a much more regular basis.”
Once the latest remodel was finished, VK started hosting cooking classes to better train customers on how to use their grilling and smoking equipment. Trevor said he plans to hold a class about every 60 days.
“We had about 20 people at the first one and right after I heard from about 20 more people that wanted to know when the next one would be,” Trevor said. “That just creates more business for us.”
Risk is part of remaining healthy
“If you’re in retail, everything is a roll of the dice,” Trevor said. “We do a lot of homework on our products ahead of time because if you’re going to do it, you have to do it right. That’s how you make it out here.”
Carrying quality products is a big first step in the retail business, Trevor said. The second is just as important.
“As long as you treat them well, you will always have customers,” he said.
With a few rolls of the dice, Video Kingdom has come a long way to become VK Electronics Home and Mobile. And it will likely continue to evolve to meet the changing times. But Trevor said his work is his version of the American dream.
“Retail is not easy – you have to put in the time,” he said. “But anybody’s got a great job if they’re doing what they love and I do.”
For more information…
VK Electronics Home and Mobile
606 W B St.
McCook, NE 69001
Cody Gerlach lives in Cambridge, Nebraska and is a reporter and advertising contact for the Cambridge Clarion and Oxford Standard newspapers. He grew up in southeast Nebraska outside the small town of DeWitt, but now considers Cambridge home to he, his wife, Ashley, and his three sons. Cody, who grew up on a small hog farm, understands the agricultural ways of rural Nebraska and he and his family enjoy the benefits of small-town living.