This October, Ra-Lin Discount turns 60 years old, an incredible testament to a local business that has competed with commercial appliance stores since the 1950s. If you’ve ever visited the store, you can understand why. The staff is always friendly and knowledgeable and some of them have been with Ra-Lin for decades. It feels like a family.
The idea for Ra-Lin began to hatch in the 1940s. Bernie Radin was living in New York City as a trained jeweler. “But, I guess he wasn’t very good at it,” laughs Lewis Radin, Bernie’s son and one of the current owners of Ra-Lin. He started selling products door-to-door and supplying his customers with a system of credit where they could pay a little each payday. This was a hard way to make a living and Bernie started to dream about owning his own store that sold a variety of products in one place. His wife had a friend living in Binghamton whose husband, Herman Zeitlin, was struggling to make ends meet. The Zeitlins had nothing to lose and agreed to team-up and open Ra-Lin. The store’s name is a mash-up of the two families: “Ra” for the Radins and “Lin” for the Zeitlins.
Ra-Lin first opened in Mattydale for a short time. It then moved to Butternut Street in 1953 next door to an old print shop. Several years later the print shop caught fire, spreading across the lot to Ra-Lin. Lewis still remembers that day, where as a child he watched the TV reports, stunned. Though a bit of a setback, the owners were not deterred and they soon moved to their current location on Burnet Avenue, where Ra-Lin remains today.
In the 1950s Ra-Lin sold baby furniture, home appliances, jewelry—“Whatever you could get your hands on,” Lewis explains, but he remembers little from those early days. “As a kid I wanted to go out and play football,” he says, “I didn’t appreciate the business.” It wasn’t until the late 1970s that Lewis began working at Ra-Lin. He needed time to “grow up” and realize the value of what was in front of him. “Working with my father,” he explains, “was one of the best things in my life. It was a terrific opportunity.” Now that Lewis runs the store with the help of his sister and her husband, he has fully come to appreciate and love the family business. “It’s pleasurable doing business with people over a period of time,” Lewis says. He loves meeting new people, hearing their stories, and building relationships.
60 years after that first store in Mattydale, not much has changed. Ra-Lin is still family owned and operated and sells a variety of different products including, jewelry, photography equipment, appliances, TVs, and sporting equipment. They take great pride in being a local entity that can spend time with customers, offer the lowest prices in Central New York, and be more thoughtful about the American-made products they sell.
The Ra-Lin family has much to celebrate and they want their customers to join in the merriment. The Anniversary will kick-off with a sale over Columbus Day weekend. More sales and special offers will continue throughout the year. Stay tuned to the Ra-Lin website and Facebook page for more details.