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Internet forces Sights N Sounds to change track

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Sights N Sound opened on Sunrise Highway in Seaford in 2004. The company specializes in the installation of televisions, audio systems, phones and “smart home” technology. Its founder and president, Joe Calise, 48, of Wantagh, has been fascinated by technology since his youth.

“This was my passion from when I was very young,” Calise said. “I was always hooking up somebody’s phone line, stereo, VCR, car stereo, all of that.”

Since moving his business from Farmingdale to Seaford — it was founded in Huntington in 1997 — Calise has been regularly involved in community affairs. He is a board member of the Seaford Chamber of Commerce, donates to the Boy Scouts, the Seaford schools and the Wantagh and Seaford Little Leagues, and does charity work in the community. And he has a host of positive reviews from satisfied customers on his company’s website and Facebook page. His reputation, burnished by his involvement in the Interior Design Society of Long Island, has helped keep his company busy.

Nevertheless, he has felt the effects of the rise of the online behemoth Amazon and its partnerships with businesses in the same field as Sights N Sounds. “A lot of people just look at price, and people buy what looks the most attractive,” Calise said. “There have been times when people … told us they bought something from Amazon, and we tell them that’s not really what they need. It sits for a while and they can’t return it. It wasn’t the right solution, it was just the best price.”

According to a 2016 study done by CNBC, nine out of 10 American consumers check the price of a product on Amazon as a part of their product research before they make a purchase. While Calise acknowledges ever-growing online sales, he contends that his company provides a service that Amazon does not match — and that service is service.

While Amazon typically has among the lowest prices in any product category, the company partners with smaller businesses to provide services like installations. Calise chronicled his interactions with Amazon over the past few years.

“Amazon came to me to partner for installations,” he recalled. “To prove that we were reputable, we came up with basic structuring for a television installation. Because there are so many variables involved, we came up with an aggressive price. Two of our people coming to install a 65-inch TV, let’s say, would be $600.”

Sights N Sounds began getting passed up for cheaper partnerships in Amazon’s network. “After not getting a few jobs, Amazon said to me that I need to lower my price, and that other companies would be doing it for $129,” Calise said. “The logistics of $129 for two licensed technicians to get up, take a truck and walk into an unknown scenario where there are many variables just doesn’t make sense.”

“These are people that work for us — these are their careers, they live in our communities,” he added. “How do they live on that?”

Consumers, he noted, might only look at the price, and choose the $129 option. But that’s often not the end of it. Sights N Sounds has been called to take down, remount or rewire a job done by Amazon-partnered installers, Calise said.

“Listen, I admittedly buy from Amazon sometimes, but I try to buy locally whenever I can,” he said. “I think they’re putting mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar shops out of business, and the community will suffer in the long run.”

So it’s no surprise that Calise, and Sights N Sounds, have pivoted to become more service-based and less product-based. He prides himself on keeping his and his staff’s knowledge of the latest technologies and trends up to date.

“The landscape is always changing, always adapting, and it will continue to,” Calise said. “The main thing is we have to be knowledgeable and stay relevant in the industry. Through service is where we will separate ourselves.”