Fowler’s TV to sign off by month’s end

Auburn business crossed from vacuum tube to digital age
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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A fixture in Auburn since the days of black and white programming, Fowler’s TV is closing at the end of the month. Ken Harper, who purchased the Downtown store nearly 30 years ago from Mack Fowler, is retiring. It was just time, he said Monday. “You always consider retiring,” Harper said. “First, when we turned 65, then when we went on to 70, and now 74. So the time came.” Fowler’s TV & Video opened on Lincoln Way in 1956, not far from its current location. During the 1980s, after Harper took over the store, he added video rentals for several years and looks back fondly on that time. “But the rental business changed a lot when satellite came out,” he said. In the 40 years he’s worked in the industry — including 10 years prior to purchasing Fowler’s — Harper has witnessed some amazing changes as technology has advanced. “Probably for me, color TV was the biggest thing,” he said. “But in the last few years, it is getting the Internet on TV, affordable satellite and HD.” After he closes the store, Harper plans to do some upgrades to the building and then likely will lease it. His retirement comes just as the next phase of Auburn’s Streetscape is about to begin, which will bring construction just outside the shop. “Streetscape did figure somewhat into it my retirement,” he said, quickly adding that he doesn’t view it in a negative way. “I wish it had happened 20 or 30 years ago,“ he said. “It is a definite improvement.” What he’ll miss most is the day-to-day interaction with his customers — many who have shopped at the store over decades. In addition to Auburn residents, customers come from Foresthill, Georgetown, Colfax, Alta, Lake of the Pines — all over the community, he said. “We’ve watched people’s children grow up,” he said. But he’s looking forward to stepping down from a 24-7 job to spend more time with family. Harper and his wife Barbara have five children, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. A photo in the office, taken last year, shows most of the family during a gathering last fall. We’ve welcomed a set of twins into the family since then, he said. A sale to liquidate the stock will continue through June 30. After the store closes, Ken Harper’s son, Larry, will continue the installation and repair side of the business. He’ll operate from a mobile unit and will keep the store’s phone number. “They’ve worked hard all their lives and deserve to have some fun time and enjoy the grandkids and great-grandkids,” Larry Harper said. Fowler’s TV will be missed, Auburn Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Cosgrove said Tuesday. “It has been a part of our community for many, many years,” Cosgrove said. “Ken Harper, when he bought the business, very quickly became involved with the chamber and the Downtown Business Association. He was president of the Downtown Business Association years ago. He played a major role in the original funk soapbox derby event that existed years ago in the community.” And Harper has been a reliable source of support to the community, he added. “Whenever we’ve needed something in the community, Ken was always there,” Cosgrove said. “I’m happy for him that he’s able to retire and I’m sure he’ll enjoy his family and retirement. It is a loss, but at the same time, after all these years, his decision to close and retire is something he’s earned. He’s worked hard and I’m happy for him.” Fowler’s TV & Video is at 944 Lincoln Way in Downtown Auburn. Reach Gloria Young at