i3 - November/December 2016 - 42

Sidney Cooper
Founder, Silo

Sidney Cooper parlayed an investment of $600 into $60 million in annual revenue from his
Silo chain, one of the first national electronics superstore chains.

C

ooper was born
July 9, 1918, in
Philadelphia,
the eldest of
three and the first in his
family born in America.
His parents, Samuel and
Elizabeth emigrated from
Russia as adolescents,
and owned a grocery/
delicatessen, where
Sidney started working
as a delivery boy when he
was nine years old. Cooper
also took every odd job he
could find, even dragging
discarded orange crates to
Baker Bowl, reselling them
as seating to standingroom Phillies fans. By 13, he
was selling subscriptions
door-to-door.
He graduated from
Overbrook High School
in 1936, and then enlisted
in the Army at the start of
World War II, serving as a
supply officer in India and
North Africa and receiving
a valuable education in
management, organization
and logistics. He got more
formal business training at
the Wharton School after
his discharge in 1946, and
married Lorraine, with
whom he had two children,
Donna and Richard.
Cooper had saved $1,200
from his Army service. He
bought a used Ford from
his father for $600, and
then invested the other
42

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016

$600 in housewares that
he could fit into the Ford's
trunk. He sold door-to-door,
accepting down payments
of $1 down then $1 a
week. Even if a customer
could pay in full, Cooper
suggested the dollar-aweek program, assuring
a new appointment each
week to sell the customer
something new.
In 1950, Cooper saw
his first television and
the future. Televisions,
however, would not fit
into a car trunk. Instead,
he opened a small store in
Philadelphia's Manayunk
section called Silo Discount
Center, combining the
first two letters of his and
his wife's names. Cooper
moved Silo to a larger
store on Chestnut Street,
added another in North
Philadelphia, and then
continued to expand as

fast as time and capital
constraints allowed.
Cooper also
distinguished Silo
from its department
store competition by
aggressively advertising
discounting, and defied
local blue laws by opening
on Sundays. Cooper, a
natural showman, was
actually arrested, but had
arranged in advance for
the press to be present,
declaring, "We will always
open on Sunday so we
can bring our better values
to hardworking people
on the only day they are
free from work to take
advantage of it."
Silo owned the back
page of Philadelphia's top
dailies, the Inquirer and the
Bulletin, for 30 years. These
ads touted the "S" in Silo
stood for savings, service,
selection and satisfaction.

The "Silo is having a sale"
jingle became a ubiquitous
earworm; almost anyone
from Philly older than 50
can still hum it.
Silo went public in 1962
to raise money for both
regional and national
expansion. The company
bought Downings in
Colorado, Appliance TV
City in Arizona, and another
small chain in Albuquerque.
In 1972, Silo launched Audio
World, a wholly owned
subsidiary that sold audio
equipment. Silo stores
also started to grow, from
8,000-square-foot stores
to 25,000-square-foot
warehouse showrooms,
even 60,000-squarefoot warehouse outlets
in Buffalo, NY, and New
Orleans. By the mid-1970s,
Silo was generating $60
million a year from 42
stores.
Cooper also was a
co-founder and an active
leader of NATM, serving
as its president. He also
was a philanthropist,
especially devoted to
two causes: Israel via
Zionist Organization of
America and the blind via
Fight for Sight, and was
honored by both.
But just as Silo was
exploding as a truly national
retailer, Cooper died in 1976
at age 57.
n
Photo-illustrations by Gluekit



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - November/December 2016

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