Iola store gets new owner

Advantage Electronics purchases Western Auto

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
Involved in a historical change in Iola’s commercial community are, from left, Dave and Mary Kay Heard, their daughter, Sharla Miller, and Gail, John and Andrew Dunbar. The Dunbars are new owners of Iola Western Auto, which has been in Mary Kay Heard’s family since 1944.

The store at 320 W. Garfield, home of Iola Western Auto since 1963, will open Tuesday morning with a new owner and expanded line of merchandise. The store will become Advantage Electronics.
“This will be our point of sale starting Tuesday,” Jon Dunbar, owner of Advantage Electronics, said Thursday afternoon. Dunbar and wife Gail purchased the Western Auto store from David and Mary Kay Heard.
The Western Auto name will remain on the front of the store, with the Radio Shack logo added.
Dunbar and his employees have been remodeling the interior of the building. The new store will have electronics on the west side of the store. Appliances, tools and lawnmowers — Western Auto staples for years — and car audio systems will be featured on the east side.
The area where the Heards had shelves filled with auto parts will become an enclosed home theater display with large-screen TV.
The new store will have a full line of sophisticated electronics, such as MP3 players (including iPods), computers and televisions.
Cellular telephone sales and service will have a prominent role in the new store. Sharla Miller, the Heards’ daughter, will continue to work there part time.
While there will be general areas for certain merchandise, Dunbar said they all would be blended together to give the store a comfortable shopping atmosphere. Attention to customer needs and quick and reliable service will continue.
“Dave (Heard) will stay on full time for at least a month and I’m sure we’ll be able to call on him anytime to help with special problems and as a resource,” Dunbar said. “We definitely want to continue the tradition of service Western Auto always has been known to provide.”
Dunbar’s son Andrew will head up service for Advantage Electronics.
Moving to the new store will increase Advantage Electronics’ total floor space by 2,400 square feet, from 3,200 to 5,600. Display area will double to more than 2,000 square feet.
Mike Jewell, who installs car audio systems for Radio Shack, will do so in the new store’s double-bay garage. “We had been putting in car audio systems in the parking lot,” Dunbar noted.

DUNBAR has been in electronics sales in Iola since 1997 and acquired the Radio Shack franchise in 2003. He will have six employees, including himself, in the new store. Wife Gail is curriculum director for USD 257.
A lease for new occupants of the current Advantage Electronics location is being negotiated, Dunbar said.
Western Auto has been a flagship Iola business since the 1940s.
Mary Kay Heard’s parents, H.B. and Kathryn Smith, purchased the Western Auto Store at 15 W. Madison Ave. in 1944. She and David joined the business when it moved to 320 W. Garfield in 1963.
She said the business remained successful through the years, even after the parent company closed in 2003, because “service to the customer has always been our goal.”
Western Auto was a commitment for the whole Heard family.
“Our children all worked at the store, just as David and I worked for our parents,” she said. “Over the years we’ve had excellent, dedicated employees and wonderful customers.”
Advantage Electronics hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. The telephone number is 365-7301.