SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 21, 2013

A new look for an old business

Marconi Radio has survived by changing with the times — including its public mural

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — The security grate at Marconi Radio used to be, to put it bluntly, ugly.

The grate, rolled down each night to protect the family-owned electronics repair and cellphone shop, didn’t do much to spruce up the business or its Gloucester Crossing neighborhood.

Owner Anthony Linares Jr. knew it needed a new look. But what?

Then in June, he noticed a large mural being painted on the side of the Casa de Moda gift shop on Cabot Street as part of Beverly Main Streets’ Arts Fest.

“Every day I drove by, I would say, ‘My goodness, this guy is fantastic,’” Linares said. He tracked down the artist through Casa de Moda owner Don Preston and learned that Philip Coleman, who lives in Beverly, has painted 100 murals, mostly in Nevada and California. Locally, in addition to Casa de Moda, he created the mural for the Leatherworkers Museum in Peabody.

Linares commissioned Coleman to spruce up the shop, and the newly painted mural is getting rave reviews. Anthony Linares Sr., who founded the business as a repair shop in 1979, was in town this week and thought the artwork was “beautiful.”

It’s another instance of the way the small shop has adapted, managing to survive and thrive, despite competition from numerous cellphone stores and other electronics retailers.

“We’ve been changing with the times,” said Linares, who notes, for instance, that they no longer service beepers, as no one carries them anymore.

“We still do a little bit of everything that we have always done,” he adds.

In 2000, Linares, a Georgetown resident, took over from his father, and he still fixes the electronics himself. He has been working in the shop since he was 15, and basically taught himself how to repair things. He’s been doing so for more than 30 years.

Coleman said the Marconi Radio mural posed a challenge — it’s the first time he has painted a mural on a security grate.

Like the Casa de Moda mural, which depicts a streetscape in a way that is meant to fool the eye, this mural depicts what the storefront window might look like when the store is open and the grate is up.

The mural depicts a poster of the first radio transmission by Guglielmo Marconi, and signs hanging in the front window that read “cell phones,” “trades welcomed” and the phone number of the store. There is also Coleman’s signature blind mouse sitting on the bottom of the grate.

Also depicted looking in the front window is Alexander Graham Bell, pondering whether he should upgrade his old phone at the store. Coleman had Jack Hudson of Beverly pose as Bell for the mural.

(Bell had a connection to Salem as the place where he worked on his invention for three years. A plaque on the Lyceum Hall on Church Street states this was where Bell gave his first public demonstration of the telephone on Feb. 12, 1877.)

Today, repairs of popular high-tech gadgets rather than citizen band, or CB, radios are what keep the store in business.

“We do a lot of repairs; it’s a big part of my business now,” said Linares, “anything from cellphones to iPads.” He can fix cracked screens on iPhones and iPads, for instance. Stores for national cellphone companies often send business his way when people come in with broken phones, Linares said.

“We will try to repair anything that is electronic,” he said. “We have fixed hot tub controls and air-conditioning units. We do a lot with car stereo, remote car starters, back-up cameras, anything to do with automobiles. We do all the installations as well.”

The store does its part to keep cellphone batteries out of landfills, and recycles 500 pounds of used phones twice a year.

Believe it or not, the store still does a lot of repairs for CB radios.

The business actually grew up as a hobby of the elder Linares, who used to own the House of Pizza in Hamilton. Marconi Radio started in the basement of his pizza shop, said Linares Sr., back when it was Tony’s Pizza House.

The elder Linares opened the shop in the basement of its present location in 1979. When he first opened, he had the basement of the building jacked up 2 feet off the foundation so the front of the store and the entrance would be level with the sidewalk.

He retired to Florida in 2000, and his son bought the business. Linares Sr., who was in town this week, can still recall installing cellular phone devices in trunks of cars, and cellphones that resembled a brick.

While the shop is called Marconi Radio, the Italian family does not have a connection to Marconi. However, Marconi’s daughter, Princess Maria Elettra Elena Anna Marconi, was in Boston for a book signing in 2000, and Linares Sr. got to meet her and tell her about the store he named for her father.

A large, framed photograph at the front of the store commemorates the moment. There are also pictures of Marconi’s daughter visiting the store in Beverly.

“She actually came by and took pictures,” Linares Jr. said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.