The year was 1982. Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States, the 49ers took the Bengals in the Super Bowl 26 to 21 and the Space Shuttle “Columbia” set off on its maiden voyage.
The National speed limit was 55 MPH on interstates and less everywhere else and actually the government mandated that the max speedometer reading on cars to be only 85 MPH. Gasoline was around $1.22 per gallon. The top song on the Billboard 100 that year was “Physical” by Olivia Newton John. Those were the days of John Cougar before he became John Cougar Mellencamp. Steve Miller Band and Fleetwood Mac were some of the Rock idols at the time and Country music really was “Country”.
Cassettes were the main source of music and mixtapes were actually an acceptable Valentine gift. Anyway, The owner of Cartronics was moving back to Nashville from a two-year stint in Memphis and was out of work. That recording engineer degree was on the shelf because Rap Music had not hit the scene yet and the recording industry, in general, was in a huge slump along with the whole economy. If you found a subwoofer in a car, then it was because someone was heading to the music studio to install it. There were nice sound systems in homes, but they used reel-to-reel tape machines and they would be difficult to put in a car.
The one area of the economy that was booming was car theft. So the owner of Cartronics, Nathan Dunn, was persuaded to start a company called Car Security Center. They started exclusively installing alarm systems in vehicles on September 15th, 1982. It was a small, 2 bay, building on the corner of North 1st and Cowan St in downtown Nashville. Business started very slow because to advertise in those days cost a lot of money. So Nathan would print up flyers and go stick them on windshields at 100 Oaks Mall because that was the only one around. When business was slow Nathan would pick up the phone and make cold calls to fleet companies and car dealerships, or anyone could think of that needed my products and service. That along with consumer word of mouth kept Them busy. As time went on, customers would ask to fix their radio or install a new one, or just improve their sound system. Under the dash equalizer had booster amplifiers on board and could really wake up most factory speakers. It was probably a year or so into the business when a customer came in with a subwoofer and asked the Nathan to install it in a Chevy Monte Carlo. He also brought an external amplifier and when it was all done he put in something in the cassette player Nathan had never heard before. The music actually had bass pouring from the subwoofers and it was amazing. It wasn’t long after when Hip Hop or Rap music was to change the whole music scene and the Nathan life as well.
By 1985 Nathan was now a proud father and was needing to grow the business or close the doors. So he sold his reliable Datsun Pickup that he had finally just paid off in order to finance a loan to rent and new location on Gallatin Pike in Madison across from Rivergate Mall. At the time they we no longer specialized in security systems, so the name changed to CarTronics. The building was so big, though that Nathan felt he should sell home and car audio to fill up the space. The shop was so big that they could actually work on 4 cars at once. Nathan felt It was an amazing feeling to finally get this business off the ground. The downtown store remained open for about a year until the building changed hands and the new lease payments were not in line. The home audio product was changing so fast at that time that we decided to just concentrate on car audio, security and car accessories.
The business increased in sales every year and by 1994 it was time to expand. Hickory Hollow Mall was in full swing and seemed like a great place to grow. Grow they did, but not without a lot of growing pains. Nathan could only be at one place at a time and along with constant break-ins and drive-throughs at both stores it was a real challenge. Cartronics product was in high demand and if they couldn’t afford it then they would try to take it any way they could. Overall business was good, but Nathan could not help but notice what was going on in the Cool Springs area. He at the time now had 3 sons as well and even though they did a good job sharing, it is hard to divide 3 into 2. So in 2004 the store at Cool Spring was born. Thanks to Cartronics employees and a lot of hard work and some reorganization, the business made it through the great recession of 2008 to 2012 and is on the road now to even bigger and better things.