Multiple media outlets – including Strata-gee.com – last week published several stories about the passing of Crestron founder George Feldstein, someone who impacted the industry nationally. But we have learned about the passing of another iconic figure in electronics – if on a more regional basis. Mel Gross, one of the industry’s more colorful characters, and a leading sales representative in the Pacific Northwest territory, passed away at the end of last month.
See more on this story, including why we chose to highlight it…
Melvin Leroy Gross (May 13, 1924 – October 24, 2014) initially gained local prominence by launching the first bowling alley in Seattle, WA. This was just one of the many ironies in his life as anyone who knew Mel knew that his first love (after his wife Rena, that is) was clearly the game of golf.
In the mid-60s, Gross was looking for new challenges and learned from a golfing buddy about the burgeoning business for manufacturers representatives. Mel decided to give it a try, launching a sales representative business in the late 60s and in the process changed his (and our) lives forever. In 1975, Mel’s son Michael joined the family business. [Full Disclosure: Mel Gross was the Pacific Northwest sales representative for Onkyo during the time period this writer was VP of Sales & Marketing there.]
Yet another irony…
In yet another irony, Mel’s first job as a rep involved selling 8-track adapters, antennas and other gear largely in the 12-volt mass merchant market…in Oregon (not Seattle where he lived). Overnight, he became a classic “road warrior,” making the long 180-mile, one-way trek to Oregon every week to sell and service his customers.
In a classic example of his ever-present “nose for new business,” Mel was calling on a distributor in Oregon one day who showed him a new line of home electronics product…a line that would go on to become JVC. Mel became the JVC representative, a line he championed through its rapid growth phase up through 1979, when they parted company.
Prescience and vision…
It was at this point when, prescient visionary that he was, Mel became the Onkyo rep…another up-and-coming line at the time. It is interesting to note – and some would say this isn’t coincidence – that Mel seemed to sense those brands that were poised to take off…and take off they did, with him. Or was it because of him?
In the early 1980s, the country was hit with a recession and business slowed down. When Mel found he couldn’t get his dealers shipped due to credit issues, he came up with a solution. Mel Gross became what might just be this industry’s first rep/distributor…literally “carrying the paper” for his dealers – just another of a long line of solutions to everyday issues credited to him.
The mark of a man…
But more important than all of his business accomplishments, is the man himself. Mel was quick with a smile and a handshake. He was incredibly loyal to his dealers…and his brands. According to Michael, Mel was still out there selling Onkyo all the way through February of this year.
A bit of a health enthusiast, Mel ran, skied, and – of course – golfed. He once told me that these things all contributed to give him the energy he needed to – once again – head out on the road…schlepping and selling.
Truth be told, he could at times be cantankerous…usually when fighting a manufacturer on behalf of one of his dealers. But it was impossible to stay angry with him. He would show that big, mega-watt Mel smile…and usually get what he wants. Because fundamentally, he had the brand’s best interest at heart as well.
According to an obituary in the Seattle Times, Mel Gross was the only son of Emma and Rube Gross…he had three older sisters. Mel and Rena Jean Nelson shared 67 loving years together…to whom he was unquestionably devoted.
From the Seattle Times:
Mel was preceded in death by his sisters, Myrah Bean (Ben), Lorraine Pollack (Paul), Marge Green (Victor), and sister-in-law, Helen Mae Rose (Bernard). He is survived by his loving & devoted wife Rena, son Michael (Jan), daughter Karen Stern, and grandchildren, Heather Gross, Hailey Stern Bernstein (Evan), Brad Stern (Lara), & Josh Gross. Additionally, nieces, great & great great, nephews, great & great great.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Rena, Michael, Karen and the whole extended Gross family.
And Mel…rest in peace, my friend…