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Investing in downtown: Jason Freilinger brings Radio Shack to Silverton

By Omie DrawhornJason Freilinger opened a Radio Shack in downtown Silverton.

Many people are surprised to hear that a Radio Shack is opening in Silverton. They don’t think Silverton is a big enough town, Jason Freilinger said.

But Freilinger, who is opening up the electronics chain store in the Odd Fellows Building in downtown Silverton on the corner of First and Main streets, said towns of similar sizes, like Canby and Dallas, have Radio Shacks.

Although warming up with a “soft” opening, the store’s official opening will take place on Nov. 5, and on Nov. 4, First Friday, the store will have an open house with hors d’oeuvres. Freilinger, who has worked in the wireless industry for businesses like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Future Shop for 17 years, wanted to use his experience to bring life to downtown.

“I wanted to focus on my hometown, so I looked at what does the town need and what I have to offer,” the Silverton resident said.

Radio Shack matched Silverton’s needs and Freilinger’s background. He started scouting out a location three years ago, deciding the old Odd Fellows Building was a great fit.

“I wanted to revitalize the downtown core; I’m not a fan of big box stores or strip malls, so I looked at a number of sites downtown that would fit the size of store,” he said.

Freilinger said the location was controversial for Radio Shack, which usually locates in strip malls or box stores.

The Silverton City Council backed Freilinger up with a sales pitch. “All seven city council members wrote personal letters to Radio Shack in support of the location,” he said.

Radio Shack corporate’s main concern was parking, Freilinger said. “They wanted to make sure there’s enough parking and that it’s a customer friendly environment.”

Radio Shack usually requires that 20,000 people live within a three-mile radius of the perspective business to consider opening a location. Freilinger said he has done extensive research that shows that Silverton meets that requirement.

“It’s large enough to be a retail center,” he said.

Stacy Palmer, executive director of the Silverton Chamber of Commerce, said there hasn’t been a chain store in downtown Silverton since Western Auto, which was 10-15 years ago. There was a Coast to Coast hardware store in the 1980s.

The Odd Fellows space was been vacant for several years, occasionally serving as a window display to highlight the space for perspective tenants. Palmer said Radio Shack will be a great addition to Silverton’s business community.

“It fills a niche; it carries many things we don’t have in town,” she said. “It gives people in Silverton more reason to stay here and shop and not go to Woodburn or Salem”.

Freilinger said he knows he is taking a tremendous financial risk in opening up the business.

“My wife and I are paying for the venture out of pocket, but we want to revitalize the downtown and do something different,” he said. He has been amazed in the curiosity that Silverton residents have shown in Radio Shack.

He received two dozen job applications and at least a dozen people stop by daily to watch the progress and ask questions as he continues to renovate the space and add inventory.

The building, owned by Terry Caster, received a facelift. The interior and exterior has been painted, the inside a Radio Shack red. The electricity was completely rewired and the plumbing redone. The interior was gutted and returned to the original open floor layout. The restoration started just after Radio Shack approved the 1,500 square foot store.

In addition to the extensive electronics selections, Freilinger said the store will carry Office Max supplies, electronic toys, AT &T and prepaid wireless plans and gaming gear.

Freilinger will work alongside Troy Carter, store manager, and two part-time employees. In addition, he’s hired temporary employees to help set up.The store, located at 218 East Main St., will be open seven days a week 8 a.m.- 7 p.m.

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