TV repair shop is throwback (video)
Oct. 2, 2013 at 5:02 a.m.
Right in the Crossroads sits a throwback to a bygone era: A time when shows aired in black and white, customer service trumped all and TV shops stocked more than just TVs.
They also had guys who could fix them.
Apache Television Service, 1708 E. Airline Road, is one of the last remaining TV repair shops in the area.
"All the old-timers got out of it because they didn't figure it'd be worth it," owner Albert Vasquez said. "Here, in this area, there's nobody left."
The closest shop is in Corpus Christi, he said.
Vasquez traces his family's connection to the business back to his grandfather, Felipe Vasquez, who opened a radio repair shop on George Street in the 1930s.
When TV entered the scene, his grandpa planned accordingly, changing the business' name to Vasquez TV.
"I grew up around it all - vacuum tubes and speakers and TV parts, all that stuff," Vasquez said.
Following his grandfather's death in 1984, his uncles ran the business until about five years ago. At the same time, Vasquez not only worked as a service technician at Lack's but also operated his own shop.
"Vasquezes have four generations of TV technicians in Victoria. Our roots run pretty deep in the industry," he said.
His son, Orion Vasquez, has also taken part.
He has focused solely on TV repairs for about 15 years. At that point, a changing business model meant fewer companies offered the service, he said, and demand was there.
"No matter where you buy your TV, we handle the warranty," he said.
As technology changed, so did the company.
In the past, he said, much of his work consisted of "component-level" repair, or fixes with the circuit boards, transistors, resistors and more. Today, while about half of his work consists of that, another half of his time goes to module replacement, or changing out processors that become corrupted or locked.
TVs have become lighter with time, he added, but also larger.
John Beahm, a TV technician at Apache, said he appreciates modern sets' solid designs.
Not only are today's elements more easily accessible, but they also consist largely of solid circuitry boards. Thus, repairs are often easier.
Harvested parts from old TVs or those that can't be fixed play into the business model, Vasquez said, explaining Apache sells the items through an eBay store.
"That's one of the main ways TV shops are able to survive now," he said, explaining harvested parts often carry longer warranties and are more cost effective than repairing parts.
Work ethic and customer service are key to staying in business, he said. And, sometimes, the best service is knowing when to tell a customer you can't fix their set.
A rule of thumb at his shop, he said, is that repairs shouldn't surpass one-third of the TV's purchase price. He wouldn't want to charge more than $100 when repairing a $300 TV.
"I've seen some of the old pros and the way they treat their customers," he said. "What keeps us going is our good track record of customer satisfaction, making sure the customer knows that they're first, and that they're being treated like they would in the old days."
Down the road, Vasquez said, TV technology will continue to improve with Wi-Fi becoming a standard on sets.
People might call shops, offer their Internet information and get the problem diagnosed remotely, he explained.
Whatever happens, he said, businesses like his will still be around.
In today's throwaway society, with people content to replace broken items rather than fix them, he said there are companies out there to help get those products - not just TVs - back in working order.
"Service is very much alive in Victoria," he said.
Advocate Photographer Frank Tilley contributed to this story.