Suwanee's Peachstate Audio to celebrate 35 years in business

Open since: 1976

Owner: Mike O'Rouke

Hours: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Phone: (770) 945-1028

Web site: peachstateaudio.com

SUWANEE -- When Mike O'Rouke got his start in the audio business, the band he managed had to wait for a lineman on the football team to get out of the shower and play bass at a Friday night high school concert.

The North Gwinnett High graduate said his Suwanee roots "run pretty deep," and his now 35-year old business roots can be traced back to the days as a band manager.

"That kind of stuff gets in your blood," O'Rouke said. "Then you have to try to find a way to make a living at it."

O'Rouke is the owner of Peachstate Audio, a business that specializes in audio and visual needs for wholesale and retail customers. Clients mostly include schools and churches, but since 1976 when the business was housed in a cinder block building where rent was $100, it's also worked with bands and musicians like R.E.M., Travis Tritt and Hank Williams Jr.Recent advances in technology, like mixing audio with an iPad, only underscores the constant changes a business like this sees in 35 years.

"Being willing to reinvent, do what you haven't done before, get out of your comfort zone, and do new things," O'Rouke said. "That's how I've been able to survive. I've done it more than once in 35 years."

O'Rouke started the business in 1976 when inflation was higher than it is now, he said, and raised capital after he swapped speaker pieces for products he saw listed in the Atlanta Advertiser.

After a year in business, O'Rouke figured he could make a living, but a turning point came in 1982 when he hired three employees, and gained brand recognition and exposure through working on tours for Tritt and R.E.M.

That helped develop product lines as O'Rouke's company built speaker cabinets for the companies running sound for the tours. But his business also sold microphones, amplifiers and mixing tables.

The business headquarters has moved a few times around northern Gwinnett County, but has settled on a 7,500 square foot building in Suwanee, an area where O'Rouke used to hunt rabbits.

For a business that ships internationally and to Alaska and Hawaii, O'Rouke said in the early days of being in business, it would have been a smart move to relocate closer to Atlanta. But the Suwanee appeal proved to be too difficult to leave.

"I looked at different places, and it wasn't home, it just didn't feel right," O'Rouke said. "You felt like you could do business (here). When you go to lunch, you know somebody, that means something. There's money, and there's a quality of life."

O'Rouke is also entering his fifth season as a community coach with the North Gwinnett High football team, and he said that wouldn't have been possible if his office was farther away.

While O'Rouke again looks to reinvent the business, the next step is building the retail side through an e-commerce Web site that is about two months old. O'Rouke's staff includes two working musicians, an employee that has experience in corporate convention audio and visual, and another that runs sound at a regional church.

"We have more added value. There's people that call and get advice and don't always buy, because they know they can get the advice here," O'Rouke said. "They know how well-versed our staff is in the products we sell, because they use them themselves."

To celebrate its anniversary, the company will have a three-day celebration April 24-26 where it will highlight its history, put on seminars and serve hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza.