Across the pond, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has had quite the 2022. Back in February, as the Nationwide Marketing Group family was gathered in Phoenix for PrimeTime, the Queen was in the midst of a massive celebration, deemed the Platinum Jubilee. The event marked the 70th anniversary of Elizabeth ascending the British throne.
You may not see any fancy parades, televised services or the like. But back closer to home, there’s another “Queen” that is celebrating a Platinum Jubilee of their own this year.
Queen City Audio Video & Appliances has been serving the Charlotte, North Carolina, region since it was founded in 1952 by Woody Player. The business was launched simply as a TV repair shop at the time but quickly expanded. (Side note: Further tying these two anniversaries together, Charlotte, often called the Queen City, is named after Queen Charlotte Mecklenburg, the wife of King George III of Hamilton fame, and the great-times-four grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.)
In the 1960s, Queen City began to expand in the Charlotte region by opening two additional stores and adding appliances to the mix. By the 1990s, the business expanded further by adding a dedicated builder/contractor sales division. By 2010, Queen City had added bedding to the mix. And then, just a handful of years later in 2017, they added furniture. All along, though, Queen City has remained a Player family operation.
“My mother, Frances, still works with us, and she’ll be 93 by the time this publishes,” says Queen City President and CEO Roddey Player, Woody's son. “She works out of the house and does a lot of great work for us in accounts receivable and the vendor side of things, too. So, we’ve got three generations that are working in the business today.”
For Roddey, he knew rather early on in life what his calling was destined to be. His father brought him down to the office when he was 8 years old and had him sweeping floors and wiping down dusty TV displays. By the time he was in high school, he was out in trucks running delivery routes. And then throughout college, he would come back and work the sales floor.
Rather than run from it all when he was done with school, business degree in hand, Roddey turned right around and stepped into the family business.
“There wasn’t much discussion about going to cut my teeth anywhere else,” he says. “Typically, you hear a lot of discussions about family business sending the kids to go do something else for a while, but my mom and dad needed help right away out of school. I’ve been doing this now for 38 years since I graduated school. It’s all I’ve ever done, and it’s been great.”
The experience for Roddey, as he says, has been great. But so too has the business itself and his impact on it. Today, Queen City stands at six physical retail locations — and growing (more on that shortly) — each with a distinct purpose and position in the Charlotte market, and their online presence has been a big boost to business as well. And, to boot, Roddey has his own two kids at the office now, helping him position the company for many more years of success.
Both Kate Player and Roddey Jr. were given time to gain experience in other industries with no pressure to ever jump into the family business. But, as things turn out, they both felt a calling of their own.
Kate was hired around the time Queen City saw a longtime accounting manager retire, which gave her the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the business during that transition. And Roddey Jr., after spending a decade in digital sales for a local broadcasting company, came back into the business on the marketing side right before the pandemic. He’s since transitioned into the operations and logistics side of the business.
It’s not just having the next generation in place at Queen City that’s important to Roddey Sr., though. He wanted to ensure they were brought into the business in the right way.
“In a family business like ours, when you have the kids coming into the business, what are their roles?” he says. “Typically, you don’t always have a role for them to come into the business and fill a role, so they end up in other peoples’ ways. But we did have opportunities for both of them, which maybe was a bit lucky. But it was important to us that they weren’t brought in just for the sake of being brought in.”
Additionally, being thoughtful about their transition into the company has allowed Roddey to ensure they get the experience they need across all areas of the business for the eventual transition of leadership.
“I’ve got a great team that, along with Kate and Roddey Jr., they are helping them gain the experience that they’re gonna need to be future leaders in the business,” he says. “This’ll be something that is handed off to Roddey Jr. and Kate as future leaders. And it’s my goal to ensure they are set up for success and can continue to grow the business.”
Expanding the Kingdom
Though they’re both celebrating 70 years of serving their neighbors, the fêtes of Queen Elizabeth II and Queen City Audio Video & Appliances are nothing alike. For one, if the Queen of England were to explore the idea of expanding her territory, other world powers might have a thing or two to say about that.
Meanwhile, back in North Carolina, Queen City is already down the path of expanding its retail footprint — and not a single arrow had to be removed from its quiver to make it happen.
In June, Queen City officially put ink to paper to secure a plot of retail real estate in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which will ultimately become their seventh physical location.
“Both of the kids and myself, we’re a Wake Forest family,” Roddey Sr. says. “We’ve got tremendous connections up there with the University and with Nationwide Marketing Group, which is also based in Winston-Salem. We’ve been running trucks up there frequently for referral business. And so, we think it’ll be a natural fit for us to come in there and serve the market.”
Roddey Sr. and his team have also been frequently in touch with Nationwide Marketing Group to explore ways to make their new location something of a retail showpiece.
“We’re going to try and work on this as somewhat of a prototype store so that we can take a look at everything that Nationwide offers and then hone the skillset and hone the offering so that it all comes together in one seamless presentation,” he says. “I think it’s going to be a good learning process for Nationwide and a good challenge for us to take on some of those technologies offered. We’re trying to really treat this as somewhat of an experimental retail store and test all kinds of shopper marketing techniques and display techniques and digital price tag techniques and whatever else we can, and really just push the limit.”
The Winston-Salem store will occupy some 30,000 square feet, making it one of their largest stores. Roddey Sr. expects the location to be up and running during the third quarter of this year.
The Players don’t plan to limit their 70-year celebration to just the opening of a new location. Rather, they’ve got quite a bit planned to mark the honor — and they are getting their community engaged as well.
Queen City has been a big proponent of the No Child Hungry meal packing efforts during PrimeTime. During one of their local meal-packing events they even had the honor of packing our 1 millionth meal for No Child Hungry. Carrying that commitment forward, the Players plan to do plenty of meal packing for their 70th anniversary.
“We’re going to pack 70,000 meals for No Child Hungry for the local market here in Charlotte,” Roddey Sr. says. “But we’re also going to pack 70,000 meals and send to them to Ukrainian children, too, with the help of the No Child Hungry organization.”
In addition, Queen City is working with local community and school organizations for various give-back and fundraising events. And, of course, they’re planning an anniversary sale event across their locations.
“We want to give back to the community that’s been so generous to us, to support us all these years and even through some of those tough times,” Roddey Sr. says. “We are a viable part of the community and an essential part of the community, but they’ve continued to support us, and we wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for our customers, our neighbors.”