BY MARY SCARBROUGH
Pop inside Audio Connections in its historic building at 400 Main Ave. and you may find a couple of collegians jamming on guitars while one customer browses the sheet music and another checks out the bongos. Audio Connections, which is owned by Jeff and Cris Engen, opened 12 years ago as a home stereo equipment store. It continued to grow until it became the full-line musical instrument store it is today.
What isn’t obvious from visiting Audio Connections is how many other successful music-related businesses the Engens run.
Audio Connections may be the most visible of their businesses, but it wasn’t the first. The first business stemmed from Jeff’s passion for music. Jeff started The Dance Machine, a mobile disc jockey business, some 25 years ago.
The Dance Machine has the capability to run multiple systems on the same night. According to Cris, this is the busy season – the time of year with many weddings and proms. The Dance Machine provides service for homecomings, anniversaries, fundraising events, and more. Cris Engen said, “I married into the business.” She got her start working the light board for The Dance Machine. Cris now helps customers in Audio Connections about two days a week. Cris also handles much of the business side of things, such as taxes, payroll, and bookkeeping. She works closely with customers for The Dance Machine as she manages the booking and organization of those events.
In addition to Audio Connections and The Dance Machine, Jeff designs and installs sound systems – along with lighting and video – for churches, schools, businesses and homes. This work frequently takes Jeff out of the store and into the field. One recent, highly visible project was the sound system for the renovations at St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls.
Jeff said churches make up about 80 percent of this aspect of his business. He has also contracted with the Harrisburg School District and O’Gorman Performing Arts Center in Sioux Falls. Soon his handiwork will be at Deubrook High School in its newly added gymnasium. The sound system in SDSU’s Wellness Center is another of Audio Connections’ projects.
Cris Engen summed up her husband’s business philosophy. “Jeff’s goal is to meet the needs of the businesses he’s installing the sound systems for. He won’t try to sell them something for the sake of selling something; he is providing the best quality product and installation for the impact the client wants. Companies know him as somebody who is honest and works with integrity. And he does have an edge, because it’s such a natural thing for him.”
Audio Connections provides live sound and lighting for all types of events. One they have been proud to do is the Children’s Home Society’s banquet, silent auction and celebrity golf tournament in Sioux Falls. “We’ve been doing that for about 10 years,” Cris said. “We also work closely with our local Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) organization for its annual fundraising event.”
Audio Connections also rents lights, projectors, public address gear and video screens. All these ventures require the help of several other employees, in the store, as DJs, and to work on installations with Jeff.
He said, “To do so many things certainly takes a team to get it all done; we have been fortunate to have some really good employees step up and give extra efforts.” “Word of mouth and referrals have helped us grow the business,” Cris said. Clearly, word is getting around about Audio Connections,
The Dance Machine and all the Engens’ music businesses. Audio Connections owners Jeff and Cris Engen opened their business as a home stereo equipment store, and it’s grown to become the full-line musical instrument store that it is today.