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Biz Buzz: Sound Connection settles in Baxter plans grand opening May 3

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After 14 years on Front Street in downtown Brainerd, Sound Connection recently made the move to Edgewood Drive, just off Highway 371 in Baxter.

The home-grown business is hosting an open house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 3 in its new facility, which was formerly home to the Viking Land Harley-Davidson dealership. The motorcycles previously moved into the former Dondelinger auto site on Highway 210 across from SuperOne Foods.

“It was time to move,” said Jason Fugate, Sound Connection shop manager. “We had to do it if we wanted to grow.”

An LED sign is going up to help grab the attention of fast-moving vehicles on Highway 371. Other business owners who opened along that stretch of highway and are now gone said the visibility is there but getting those fast-moving vehicles off the beaten track and in the door for a sale is another matter. But the Sound Connection crew said they’ve already had new customers come in the door who never made it to their Front Street location. And they said the neighboring businesses of Minnesota Inboard Water Sports, Dondelinger’s and Lake Country Toyota are a plus as they do a lot of work with dealerships.

Sound Connection provides mobile audio and video systems for watercraft and land vehicles. Items include electronics for iPod connections, lighting, rims and rear-view cameras for vehicles in reverse and remote starters. Since the business opened, it’s installed more than 6,800 remote starters.

Fugate said they do pretty much anything but auto body work and vehicle repair.

The move didn’t increase the square footage but John Larson, manager, and Fugate said the layout is much improved. The showroom includes interactive displays for audio and video electronics, offices and a business center to give customers free WiFi and a quiet place to go and work if they want or check email if they are waiting for an installation. Two bays provide room for installation with additional rooms for wood-working, Plexiglass work, construction and tooling. Wording on the installation bay doors says, “The work we do here is a reflection of who we are.”

Fugate said staff members have an extensive checklist when vehicles come in and go out of the installation bays, designed to make sure steps aren’t missed right down to reprogramming the pre-sets for a customer’s favorite radio stations.

Fugate said the interactive displays are a huge component, equivalent to test-driving a car before a purchase. “It really shows you what it is going to sound like,” Fugate said.

The business employs five in Baxter. Fugate said a premium is placed on training and product certification.

For the grand opening, Sound Connection plans to have refreshments, demo vehicles, classic cars on display, a new Malibu boat from Minnesota Inboard Water Sports and participation of cars from the Octane Syndicate, a performance driven automotive club. Von Hanson’s Meat Markets are providing snacks.

“We’re kind of getting the whole community involved in our grand opening,” John Larson said.

Sound Connection has a long history in the community. Then 18-year-old Ben Larson started the business in 1995. His history of starting the business in 300 square feet with a dirt parking lot and without an installation facility is documented via displays inside the new facility. The business history states the teenager kept his business alive armed with a stubbornness to not fail.

“Quit is not part of him at all,” Fugate said of Ben Larson. “He lives and breathes this place.”

There were a couple of moves, including two of the early spots along Highway 371, with one by Brainerd International Raceway, before the move in 2000 to Front Street.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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