Town Institution Started in Basement
A former WWII radioman started the Calitri family business 64 years ago in a basement that has grown into Barrington Appliance and TV.
Louis Calitri was a radioman on a B-17 bomber in World War II. The son of Italian immigrants who moved to the USA just after the turn of the 20th century, Calitri was one of 10 children.
When he returned from the war in 1945, the young man started fixing radios in his basement. Two years later, Calitri and his brother, Mike, opened Barrington Radio & Electric on Maple Avenue, where the former Barrington House of Pizza did business until recently.
Six of Calitri's other siblings would follow suit over the ensuing years, opening various businesses in Barrington and imprinting the Calitri name and work ethic into the very fabric of the town. But for that first four years, it was just the two young men, working hard in their new radio and electric business.
In 1951, the men moved their business into what is now the location of TD Bank on County Road. They stayed there for the next eight years. In 1959, they made their final move across the street and down a little to 188 County Road to a new building with more space for their expanding business.
As the two men raised their families, their children grew up treating each other like siblings, as children from large extended families are wont to do. The kids spent lots of time in the store, and for two of them, John, and Michael, both born on April 1, four years apart, the business held a special appeal.
Both boys headed to college after high school, John to study management, computers, and psychology, and Michael to study marketing and accounting. Although Michael headed into the workforce for a short while after college, the draw of the family business was too great for much of an absence.
When Mike had a heart attack in 1983, John filled in for him on service calls, with Mike giving instructions from his hospital room. His continuing health challenges meant that John stayed on to work with his dad, and Michael soon joined the team.
These days, John is in charge of service and selling, while Michael takes care of the accounting and the deliveries. Although their dads have passed on - Louis in 1998, and Mike just last year, their legacy lives on in their sons.
John Calitri joked about the change they finally made to the business name in 2006, turning it into Barrington Appliance & TV.
"Uncle Mike wanted the change when he turned eighty," said Calitri. "Right after we made the change, a man came into the store. He said he'd been driving past us for fifteen years and never knew what we did. But that day he came in and bought a dryer."
"My uncle said "Aha! I told you!'" laughed Calitri.
For all the years that John and Michael Calitri have been involved in the business, John Calitri said they still enjoy it.
"Some days it's the hardest thing in the world, and other days it's the greatest," he said. "You try to be fair to everybody, and treat others how you want to be treated."