Talking Shop Page 3

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Tweeter • Stores throughout the East Coast, Illinois, Texas, and the Southwest Tweeter - which started as a high-end Boston hi-fi shop in the early '70s (sensing a trend?) - is one of the nation's largest specialty retailers, with more than 150 stores. But recently the chain has broken with its traditional model by rolling out a series of "concept" stores called Consumer Electronics Playgrounds. (See What's in Store: Tweeter.)

A hybrid format that combines elements of a specialty CE retailer, a five-star hotel, and an interactive Disney theme park, the Playground's most intriguing feature is the "concierge desk." When you enter the oval-shaped store, you're greeted by a concierge who invites you to go on a "customer journey" through the "notional spaces," or various living-area vignettes - a living room, kitchen, patio, bedroom, sports bar, and bathroom - each designed with some element to generate excitement. The bedroom, for example, has a plasma TV that rises from a console at the foot of the bed, while the family room features a plasma that disappears behind a retractable VisionArt painting when not in use.

Another showpiece is a dedicated home theater area - the Big Screen Adventure Room - that features a Sony front projector, a 120-inch Stewart screen, a 7.1-channel JBL surround sound system, and D-Box motion-simulator recliners that can literally rock and roll your body in response to onscreen action. Everything on display is for sale, and vignettes allow visitors to imagine how the gear will look - and perform - in their own homes.

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