Sonny, Eddie and Brandon Waldman begin and end their day preventing electronic headaches for everyone else.
In a quant, historically gifted shop in downtown Brooksville, three generations of Waldmans work on various electronic devices, from computer software and hardware to televisions, security systems and car audio.
And they make it look like child’s play.
Velva Darnell Electronics conjures up all sorts of thoughts for those who aren’t privy to their history. While the word electronics in the name gives away what the shop does, the stories that spin from this really comfortable local business are endless.
Since no one who runs the operations inside this impressive productive environment is named Velva Darnell, you might first wonder what story lies behind the name?
“Velva Darnell,” explained Eddie Waldman, “is my mother.”
For country music enthusiasts, especially those who follow some classic artists out of Kentucky, the name triggers memories of a passionate country pop singer. Velva Darnell was very popular in the 1960s with hits like “Are You Gambling More” and “Seven Eleven” which were recorded under Sonny and Velva Waldman’s record label, Archway.
Velva Darnell still performs at times. But her name, at least locally, is now associated with electronics on a cozy downtown street in historic Brooksville.
It isn’t really that much of a stretch, said Eddie. The original Velva Darnell store sold records in Kentucky. When the family moved to Florida, Eddie was young but already devoted to his curiosity for technical gadgets. And the business focus changed.
Growing up in the family business helped ground Eddie’s passion for anything electronically engineered. And he passed it to his son, Brandon, who took the idea to an accelerated level.
The three men, who share the name William, go by their middle names, and operate the business together, along with Sonny’s son-in-law, Mike. Sonny and Mike run the television repair while Eddie and Brandon focus on the computer side of the business.
The business’s focal point is on service, sales and installation of computer systems, car audio, tv repair, computer networking and website design.
“He and I have been working together since I was young,” Eddie explained, as he nudged his father gently. “And me and Brandon have worked together since he was young.” The three generations have an undeniable connection that goes deeper than their shared blood. They pull from the same deep rooted foundation of work ethic that never questions the importance of keeping their customers satisfied.
The modern Velva Darnell began its history in Florida in 1985 when the family moved to Pinellas Park where they had family friends. They chose to settle in Hernando County, originally Masaryktown, because it was about the same distance from a major city as their home in Kentucky had been.
In 1998, they ventured further north in an historic home on Bell Avenue where they have remained.
The main concepts of the business have remained the same since the 1960s. But it has modernized over the years as technology has advanced.
“If you’re going to survive in any business, you have to change with the times,” Eddie said. “It was records and 8-tracks when they started. By the time I was involved, it was cassettes and CDs. We’re now coming to the point where its MP3s.”
Brandon has been the leader in much of the advanced technology the company incorporated. He designed the state-of-the-art security system that allows the Waldmans to monitor their business while away from the building.
They also designed a “virtual tunnel” that is private, allowing them to access their work from other locations, like home. They can do the major portion of the work at the office and tap into finish the parts that can be accessed through that private virtual tunnel.
“It keeps the computer safe because there is no traffic between us,” Eddie explained, “but allows us access from remote devices.”
In fact, much of their services are networked, allowing computer repair to happen across internet lines. For that reason, the Waldmans rarely have to leave their production areas to repair computer issues. Many of their customers never venture into the shop unless they need to drop off a peripheral or pickup an item.
“We don’t need all that wasted space,” said Brandon. “Keeping overhead down allows us to keep our prices down.”
Brandon also designed the phone system that builds a perception that Velva Darnell is a huge multi-level company. Make no mistake, however; this company, while run by three dedicated Waldmans and an equally passionate service tech, Chris, Velva Darnell still delivers what it portrays in creative ingenuity.
The sales portion of the business focuses on laptops, desktops and accessories. Computer systems are basically commercial strength, purchased leased equipment that lasts well beyond a standard system.
Eddie explained that many of their systems on the sales floor came from confidential sources, like government institutions, and were zapped and reconfigured. Their prices are comparable to refurbished machines but have a longevity factor because of their industrial manufacturing that lasts well beyond their competitors.
What keeps the Waldmans so passionate about their business?
The father, son, and grandson team inspires the dedication of values from old fashioned morals combined with the fearlessness of youth. The three have proven that commitment to family and community begins and ends with preserving the trust between themselves and the people they serve.
Sonny, who started it all, has a true love for televisions. In fact, one of his prized possessions is a 1948 console with the original tubes and integrated parts. They keep the unit on display where visitors to the Velva Darnell can catch a glimpse of true electronic nostalgia.
“But we never turn it on,” said Eddie, to preserve its life.
Velva Darnell Electronics is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Biz at a Glance