American was big, but it was a friendly place.
Madison won't easily adjust to the loss of American TV and Appliance, the Midwest chain that announced this week it is closing down after 60 years of business.
Unlike Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus at The Capital Times, I never met the iconic owner and spokesperson, "Crazy TV Lenny" Mattioli, but I sure remember his grating voice on those commercials. As Zweifel recalls in his column, Mattioli rescued American in the late '60s when his brother got cancer. Lenny famously gave away free bikes to customers.
Lots of Madisonians remember buying their first TVs, stereos, or appliances at American. When I turned 40, I went to American and bought myself the most expensive item I've ever purchased: a red leather couch.
American was big, but it was a friendly place, where workers seemed to have actual knowledge of the products they were selling. Now we live in an an era dominated by online retailers, along with mega corporations like Best Buy and Walmart -- a company that should be ashamed of its paltry record on workers' rights, benefits and pay. But I always hoped American would survive the era of the big boxes.
But when American closes, almost 1,000 workers across three Midwestern states will be looking for jobs. And 70% of them are in Wisconsin.
On Tuesday, South Madison Development Corporation spokesman Daniel Guerra Jr. issued a statement that sums up the impact of the loss on Madison's south side: "As a community we should thank every American TV, employee and customer over the company's 60 year run. This will have an impact on our regional economy and affect many hardworking families, now is the time for us to start thinking about the future -- and what we can do together."
I know it's not as simple as just saying, "buy local," but if we don't do something, we'll have more businesses to mourn.
And I don't want to shop at Walmart.