“I immigrated to the U.S. from Israel in 1976. Shortly after, the owner of the store met me. And he wanted me to come and work for him. I said, ‘I don’t know anything about this stuff.’ But he said, ‘Don’t worry, come work for me.’ He believed in me and took a chance on me, and I barely even knew him.”

“I joined him working in what was an electronics store at the time on Clark and Diversey. He was selling a bunch of other things: Walkmans, TVs, car stereos, boom boxes, cameras, you name it. In 1978, he sold me the store so he could open another large store downtown.”

“When I started, I had a small store, but as we grew, I rented the space next door, and then rented an additional space next door. I had a pretty big store for that kind of a busy corner. It was right next to the Century Mall. A lot of people would go shopping in that area.”

“That was a great area, very busy. It’s still pretty busy but at the time there was a lot of shopping. Across the street there was the record store, Gramaphone, so whoever shopped there would also come to our store and vice versa.”

“That was a great time. In 1990, I met my wife Betti in Israel, and she joined me to run the store in Chicago. Really it was a great run to meet all the club owners, all the restaurant owners, all the DJs. I enjoyed working in this field. A lot of small businesses come and go, but we always stayed because we were always adapting to the market.”

“As the market shifted and different electronics became unprofitable, we adapted to target the specialty market of DJs and music industry here in Chicago. Slowly, I turned it into a pro store.”

“I was in that location for 33 years.”

“In 2008, we bought the building at 1613 W. Belmont.”

“Our shop had a state-of-the art recording studio, which I invested in building so musicians could come and record in the store. We also had a one-of-a-kind lighting room, where industry people could come and see how lights would respond to the music they play, or light up the space with fog machines. No one in Chicago has a store like this.”

“Club owners and musicians, industry people all like to come here because while they could shop online it’s not the same if you’re talking to someone who’s knowledgeable about the product or can explain to you in detail how to use it or answer questions.”

“Online competition hurt us, but also the taxes on the building here make it very hard. By the time you pay employees, health insurance, taxes, telephone, etc. they make it hard to run a small business. The last thing I was trying to do recently was the rental business which we were doing well with.”

“Then COVID hit, and we had to close due to the restrictions. We couldn’t have anyone in the store, and the rental business shut down because no one could do events. We decided it would be a good time to retire.”

“I’ve had great employees working for me over the years, very smart people. Many of my former employees, today, they’re very successful in their respective fields because they took what they learned from me and they got really good on their own. That’s awesome.”

“For me it’s satisfying to see people become successful. And in the end, they say ‘Sami, thank you for helping us.’ I just always help people out because people helped me, so I want to help other people.”

“It was a good time, you know? It was a nice time to serve these people and to serve this city. I’ve met people and club owners and helped them out whenever they needed anything.”

“I feel proud to say I was able to invest in people and their passions and many of them have gone on to find success in their music careers. It’s too bad that we have to close but it was a good time.”

Sami Lavi
Midwest Pro Sound owner
Chicago, Illinois