It’s Insane! Crazy Eddie Returns

How insane is this? Magic Investments, a family owned, New York area firm has purchased the Crazy Eddie retail name and intends to bring it back in several forms, including online, in brick-and-mortar locations and with licensed products.

Crazy Eddie, at one time, was a consumer electronics retailer located in the Northeastern United States. It was started in 1971 and was liquidated via bankruptcy proceedings in 1989. At one time, the chain operated 43 stores with $300 million in annual revenue. It was renown for its brash radio, TV and print ads. On the air, actor/radio DJ Jerry Carroll would scream in a frenetic voice about Crazy Eddie discounting: “The guaranteed lowest prices on audio, video, anything and everything in home entertainment!” The tagline was an apoplectic: “His prices are insane.”

The original chain was doomed when several government bodies began investigating alleged illegal warranty billing practices and violations of federal security laws. Co-owner Eddie Antar eventually served six years in prison; his cousin, Sam Antar, spent six months under house arrest.

This past February, Magic Investments, a firm primarily owned by the Gemal family –whose roots, coincidentally like the Antars, date back to origins in Brooklyn, N.Y. – acquired the Crazy Eddie brand name from Trident Growth Fund of Houston. Trident, itself, had purchased the name from the Antar family in 2004.

“We have a Web site up and running [], offering consumers worldwide the lowest costs on electronic and digital products,” said Ike Gemal, vp, licensing. “We have marketing and advertising campaigns . . . in the works to include radio, TV, print media, New York City billboards, taxicab advertising and more.”

Currently on the Web site, Crazy Eddie is offering a wide array of major brand name TVs, cameras, printers, CD and DVD players, GPS devices, small kitchen appliances, videogame players, electronic accessories and seemingly hundreds of other items.

But the Magic ideas don’t stop there. The company, citing a retail opportunity opened by the demise of the Circuit City chain, has a plan to “open Crazy Eddie express stores and Crazy Eddie franchise stores,” according to Gemal. “Retail operations will launch in the first quarter of 2010 with the possibility of the first new Crazy Eddie store to open in the fourth quarter of 2009.”

The goal is to expand to as many as 50 shops, either standalone or as a store-within-a-store concept, occuping 2,000 square feet or less.

“The demise of Circuit City will naturally provide Crazy Eddie with a greater built in market share, both at retail and online,” said Gemal. Also what “will help are the reduced costs for store leases that are available in today’s market, but please note that our store format will primarily be the smaller size Crazy Eddie Express stores, the size of, say, a Radio Shack, Blockbuster.”

Gemal said his firm also is in discussions with manufacturers to license Crazy Eddie products such as batteries, headphones, MP3 players, flat screen TVs and more which would be sold in Crazy Eddie retail locations and elsewhere.

One factor that might help publicize the Crazy Eddie name, for better or worse, is the fact that a feature film, to be directed by Danny DeVito about Eddie Antar and his retailing foibles is, reportedly in the works with a release in 2010.

There are skeptics in regard to bringing back the Crazy Eddie name, including Sam Antar, the original retailer’s CFO. “We committed massive fraud that hurt thousands of investors, cost hundreds of millions of dollars in economic damage,” Antar told the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, which is based near where some of the Gemals now live. “These guys want to revive the name. It’s like reviving Enron. If someone five years down the road said, ‘I started this firm called Bernie Madoff Securities,’ would you put your money there?”

Still, Gemal is optimistic the brand name carries more positive clout than negative feelings.

“Most people remember the advertising and the low, low prices,” he said. “There’s millions of dollars in advertising and brand equity already invested.”