Local business owner and hi fi dealer reflects on the importance of passion in his life
Thompson’s Electronics is an open room with two walls stacked with boxes. Boxes bearing knobs, sliders, dials, back-lit displays, cassette drawers and many other protrusions. Built in a former auto repairs shop, the floor is rough and still bears tire marks. All of this lies behind a simple glass storefront.
To an outsider, these shelves of machinery without obvious use may be a little overwhelming. However, to the true hi-fi audio system enthusiast, it’s a slice of heaven.
When asked, Glen Thompson pointed to his favorite pieces, a pair of amplifiers with furniture reminiscent of old TV cabinets. “Sonically, it’s better than any of the new gear,” he said. “That’s the kind of gear I own at home.”
Thompson is a tall, stately man in his 60s. He holds eye contact just long enough and speaks with a mellow baritone and the rhythm of a seasoned salesman. But he isn’t trying to sell something that isn’t worth your time. His prerogative? Good engineering.
“Bottom line, I want to have something that looks great and works well,” he said. This is why Thompson’s specializes in mid-range equipment at reasonable prices that gives users the audio fidelity they need to experience sound as it was meant to. Newer equipment, with cheap circuitry and poor audio conversion algorithms, puts out a weaker sound.
Glen Thompson is a third of Thompson’s Electronics. Alongside his brother Gene and sister Linda, he holds equal stake in the company. Not just financially either: according to Gene Thompson, each member of the family works three and a half days a week at the store and holds their own duties. Linda, a natural at management and bookkeeping, controls administrative and financial duties while Gene troubleshoots equipment and Glen handles sales. “The total package works out really well,” said Gene, with a smile.
Thompson’s Electronics has been open in Downtown since 1936, when the nation was still in the throes of the depression. It’s changed locations several times, relocating from leased property in the heart of Downtown to its current location near the corner of 11th and Oak.
Back then, Thompson’s was owned by the parents of the three siblings and current owners. At that time Glen didn’t see the shop as his future. Glen went to school at Lane Community College, seeking a degree in biology. He eventually lost interest in the program and reluctantly returned to work at his parent’s electronics shop.
For a while, it didn’t click. He did his job to the best of his ability, but his heart wasn’t exactly in it. It was only later, as his parents passed ownership down to their children that Glen discovered how rewarding the job could be. “The more I got involved, the more I wanted to put into it,” he said. It’s been his career ever since.
Despite being a specialty retailer in rough economic times, Thompson’s is at no risk of running out of business. “I still get a lot of people looking for used hi fi gear because it basically fulfills a need for people who want better sound equipment,” said Glen. The shop has even served multiple generations of customers.
According to Glen, the equipment really matters. A music enthusiast with broad tastes, he’s developed a sensitivity to the quality of audio engineering in music. If a recording has poorly placed microphones, substandard equipment, or any technical deficiencies, he can hear it.
“Unfortunately, music artists, when they hire [engineers], don’t hire the best because it’s hard to find a passionate person that wants to do a good job,” he said.
Audio is not his only hobby nor his only place to express his passion. Glen balances his time between woodworking and fly fishing when weather permits. Both are highly technical pursuits that constantly put his skills to the test. His hobbies are all continual learning processes for him.
His love of the outdoors makes fly fishing something special for him. In fly fishing, etymology and careful study are very important for success. When asked, Glen said he could never be a bait fisherman. “[My mind] has to be concentrated on fishing,” he said. “I always have to ‘match the hatch’, find the right fly that matches the insect.”
Though Thompson’s Electronics holds a niche in Eugene and though Glen is proud of his position there, retirement is in sight. After he steps down from his position, he won’t be short of things to do. He plans to travel with his family, continue with his hobbies and volunteer.
“There’s not a third generation that’s going to take over,” he said, shrugging and smiling. “And that’s okay.”