The Times recently spoke with Jeff Hodgson, who with his son Peter owns and operates Martha’s Vineyard Sound and Security, the newest storefront on State Road in Vineyard Haven. Mr. Hodgson shared what it’s like to operate a family business, and why he opened the showroom earlier this winter, after 13 years in business.
What’s your background?
I began by building wooden boats, and my building projects eventually transitioned into building speaker enclosures for sound systems — I guess it offered enhanced job opportunities [chuckles]. I was intrigued by electronics, and got licensed by the state, then began installing sound and security systems in homes. My son, Peter, soon followed in the family footsteps after tiring of building cell phone towers. We created Martha’s Vineyard Sound and Security together in 2002.
How did you end up on the Island?
As a child, I grew up in Mattapoisett, and our family always visited the harbors of the Vineyard on our boat. We loved it. We started our company here because of the great business opportunities it provides. Once Peter became part of the team, he moved to the Vineyard to be more available to our customers.
We began developing faithful business relationships and attracting customers who loved the finished product we offer. Our business began evolving more into home automation, custom installations, and home theaters, in addition to just sound and security. Our customers here are such appreciative and patient people, which makes our job much easier. Our love of boating and the sea may have a played a role in this choice, too.
What inspired you to open the storefront?
Over the years, our business has consisted of mainly custom installation of audio/visual systems, power shading, and climate control in homes and businesses. We have never really had a dedicated space for our services. Our offices and equipment have always been in our own homes. We were inspired to open the storefront as a showroom and retail space so we could give the business a real home. More importantly, we wanted to create a space for customers to be able to come in and actually see, feel, test, and experience the technology we provide — to become more comfortable with it before deciding what they wanted in their homes. That’s extremely important to us.
What is it like working as a family business? How do you split up business responsibilities?
Working as a family business is refreshing. Family businesses seem to be a little more rare these days, and we consider ourselves lucky. Peter and I have been doing business together for so long, the responsibilities for each of us over the years have remained the same, and we rely on one another. Since our customer base is growing, we have needed to take on some extra help. We have added two more employees. Patrick Joyce, a technological genius, has been with us for three years now. When new products and systems come through our door, he researches, tests, and makes them work. My daughter-in-law, Susan Hodgson, has also joined the team. She takes care of our marketing, public relations, and retail, and keeps the Martha’s Vineyard Sound and Security showroom open during the day.
What challenges have you overcome as a business? What difficulties do you see in the future?
Now, 14 years later, we have achieved the goal of having a storefront operation. We opened during the slow season. People don’t really know what we are about, so trying to communicate our products and services can be challenging. But now our doors are open, and we’re available to inform and answer questions. It’s also difficult with the expensive cost of living on the Island to ensure the business is operating successfully. Trying new things can often be scary.
So what is Martha’s Vineyard Sound and Security about? Who can take advantage of your services?
We provide home automation services: We can help you turn your heat up and down, your lights on and off, your shades up and down, all from your mobile device or a touch panel on the wall. We also offer home theater installations, climate control, and fire/burglar systems. In addition to our custom installation services, we are Sony and Crestron dealers. Crestron is the top-of-the-line company for home automation and enrichment, power shading, climate control, custom remotes and controls, and audio. Most importantly, it is easy to use. Our main goal is convenience for customers. We are a small company; we know our customers, and our customers know us.
Since technology is evolving so quickly, a lot of people are afraid to branch out and try new things. Again, that is why we opened a showroom: so people can come in, try out the product, and handpick what technology they want in their homes. With Crestron systems, you control almost all aspects of your home from your smartphone or device. There’s even an app, Crestron Pyng, that you can download for free to make this happen. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
How do you keep up with changes in technology?
As Crestron- and Sony-authorized dealers, we attend yearly conferences and trainings. We’ve even traveled as far as California for a Crestron training. We also have specific representatives that travel here to demo new products and check on our business’s progress.
What are your business goals and hopes for the future?
We would like to see our retail department and sales grow. Once we gain more of a presence as a storefront and showroom, we hope to see people come in more often for what they need. Most importantly, we want to continue custom home automation jobs to make homes user-friendly and make life easier for our community.
Martha’s Vineyard Sound and Security, 37 State Road, Vineyard Haven. Open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. 508-693-9590, mvsoundandsecurity.com.