For the first time in 114 years, Spokane residents can no longer walk into a Huppin’s store.
The fourth-generation business that started in 1908 as a tailor shop before evolving into a retail-electronic powerhouse has sold its store at 8016 N. Division St. to Wipliance, a company founded in 2006 in Bellevue.
Huppin’s in 1994 created the OneCall mail-order division of the business that was separate from the retail store.
Huppin’s owner, 61-year-old Murray Huppin, said while the sale of the retail store has been completed, he will focus exclusively on OneCall online electronics sales on platforms such as Amazon’s Marketplace.
“During COVID, we did a major transformation of the retail store,” Huppin said.
“The way we saw the online business really take off, it kind of came to me: If you can buy it online, why are we selling it in the store?”
Two years ago, Huppin transitioned his retail store into a center focused on custom installation of things like automated lighting, window treatments, smart home features and full audio or theater systems. That’s Wipliance’s bread and butter.
Huppin said he has for years known Wipliance owner Lee Travis and has a lot of respect for how he built his business in Bellevue.
“He is somebody I’ve gotten to know through industry associations,” Huppin said of Travis. “He runs a terrific business and is tremendously regarded and respected. And, the timing was just right.”
The former Huppin’s store is now only open by appointment, only for clients who are seeking custom installation of audio and theater systems and other products, Travis said.
Travis said he started selling car audio equipment in 1987 before founding Wipliance in 2006. The company has offices in Bellevue, Arizona and now Spokane.
Travis’ late mother was from Spokane, so for a couple of decades he had been making multiple trips a year to the Lilac City.
Other than being aware of Huppin’s success, Travis said he got to know Murray Huppin over the past six years or so through a trade organization.
“He knew that the business needed to change from retail to” custom installation, Travis said. “We have been quietly guiding them from behind the scenes. When (Huppin) decided he wanted to sell, we were a natural fit.”
The branding transformation at the store will occur over the next year to allow customers to transition from Huppin’s to Wipliance’s family of products and services.
The ownership transfer occurred this past weekend. That store opened in 2013 after Huppin’s operated for 60 years at 421 W. Main Ave., in downtown Spokane.
“I’m the fourth-generation owner of our family business,” Huppin said. “We’ve operated for 114 years. I’ve always wanted to figure out how we are going to extend Huppins into the next generation.”
OneCall has alreadybecome an increasing portion of Huppin’s business.
For example, about 20 employees worked at the store, but about 60 work for OneCall.
Terms of the sale to Wipliance were not disclosed.
“My focus really has been on the online side of the business for the last 20 years,” Huppin said. “If we look at the beginning of my family business, my great-grandfather was a tailor. We’ve had major transformations.”
Now that Wipliance has taken over operations of the building, it marks the first time since 1908 Huppin’s will not have a traditional physical store.
“I feel really positive about it,” Huppin said. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.