Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.
Alan is the president at Ra-Lin Discount: The Original Discounter! This Northside Business Partnership member is a second generation, family-owned supplier of large appliances, electronics, photography equipment, and much more.
Q: How long have you been in Syracuse? How long have you worked at Ra-Lin?
A: First of all, Ra-Lin’s started in 1953. It was started by my father-in-law, Bernie Radin, and his partner Herman Zeitlin. I was born in 1952, so actually just the year before the store opened—born and raised in Syracuse, went to Nottingham. In fact, all the owners went to Nottingham. The owners are my brother-in-law, Lewis Radin, and my wife, Marsha Poushter, but she was Radin obviously before that. We were all born and raised in Syracuse, went to Nottingham. The only time I left was when I went to University of Denver for college. When I started at Ra-Lin, it was 1978, so 39 years. Hard to believe.
Q: Ra-Lin has everything from major appliances to home theater speakers to jewelry. How do you provide knowledgeable staff support to customers when you have such a broad range of products?
A: We have specialists in every department. In fact, what you’ll find is even right now, there are two appliance people who just do appliances. There are two people who just do the TVs and stereos. There are two people who do jewelry. There are two people who do small appliances and there are about four of us in camera because we do photo finishing too. And that does not include the sporting goods, by the way. They have their own—there’s like five people that work just in sporting goods. I think what separates us from the competition is our knowledgeable staff. Also I would say most of the staff, believe it or not, have been here over 30 years. Not only are they knowledgeable, but the appliance people have been here 30 years and 40 years, in TV one guy has been here 30, 40 years. Also, whatever department the person is in, the guys are into it. The TV department, the guys are into it. The sporting department, the guys are sportsman and they go off sporting. The camera people shoot photography. Everyone who is in their specialty is also an avid fan. It’s not just a job. It’s their hobby. In a nutshell, that’s who we are and why we’re successful. People know that when they come in here, the person that they’re going to talk to is highly knowledgeable and motivated and into it. It’s not just a job.
Q: Have you ever had strange requests for products you don’t carry? Can you think of any examples?
A: Oh, every day. We get a lot of calls for computers because people think we sell computers. Computers and computer accessories. You would think it would go with everything else we sell here—it’s what I call a small big box. We carry pretty much everything a big box store would carry, without the computer stuff.
Q: What do you like about being located on the Northside? Dislike?
A: Yes we’re on the Northside, but we’re also almost downtown. We’re also Eastside. We get a lot of customers from DeWitt. Although I am on the Northside and belong to all the groups, I consider myself a centrally located—although, like I said, we’re on the edge of the Northside. We like the location. We’re centrally located and we’re right near the Teal Ave exist and the downtown exit, the Townsend Street exit, and we’re convenient no matter what side of town you’re on. And I think our big advantage over other businesses on the Northside is we have PLENTY of adequate parking.
Q: Lately, we’ve had such new technologies as smart phones, 3D TVs, and Blu-ray. Any thoughts about what the next big technology will be?
A: Well, we’re selling some drones. It actually falls into the camera department because all the drones have these high-quality cameras. Most of the drones you see are used for monitoring or looking at things, so it’s photography, video. All of ours are really sold to photographers, who are now getting into it. We’re selling some to business guys, construction guys, who use it instead of getting up on a ladder to look at a roof, or a farmer or real estate people. It’s still a new thing but we’re starting to sell some. What we find is that even though they’re photographers, they’re not good flyers, and we’re having trouble with things crashing. So we’re getting together with the clubs that use model air planes. They came at it more from the flying part and we’re more at it from the picture part, so we’re trying to work with the local model air plane guys.
The other thing we’re selling new are these security cameras. With these new security cameras, you can look at your store or your house on your phone, wherever you are. The security camera is hooked up to your computer through the Wi-Fi, and from your computer to your phone. There, again, we have a specialty guy. He has to come out and look at your house. You could home-install it, but most of the time you would hire someone. And we’re not doing so much individuals with security cameras as small businesses. We did a system for the Canal Museum. People have gone away from alarm systems because you can see it on your phone. Less false alarms.
Q: If I could write you a check to buy anything in the store, what would you get and why?
A: I would say the fancy drone or the big TVs. The other thing I would say is, the appliances are getting more sophisticated. You can monitor your refrigerator. That’s the new thing—monitoring of the home appliances. From your phone, you’ll be able to find out what’s in your refrigerator. This is kind of in the future, what they’re talking about. They’re not quite there yet, but you’ll be able to get it from your phone, all this stuff.
To learn more about Ra-Lin, visit their website at RaLins.com.