The Tri State Story: Founded in the mid 1930’s by George Wilson, Tri State was in the business of selling and repairing radios of all types. Shortly after WWII, having just served as a Navigator & Radio Operator aboard a B24 for the US Army Air Corps, Wilson took on a new employee by the name of Bob Blank. By now, the company had broadened its radio business and had begun selling and servicing movie theater equipment which had become very lucrative.
In 1955 George retired, selling the business to Bob and his partner Jack Mitchell who successfully grew the business…that is, until the rise of television caused a decline in the movie industry. Blank sold his interest in the company to his partner Jack who not long thereafter was killed in an unfortunate auto accident on a trip to New Orleans. His widow became the sole owner of Tri State Theatre Supply.
After selling his share of Tri State to Jack, Blank formed a new company, Photo Sound. He had been cultivating new business and was anticipating contracts with Millington Naval base to supply 16mm & opaque projectors, among other things, to be used for training. He even rented a space on Madison Avenue in Memphis where the family helped prepare the facility for the oncoming business. The contracts never materialized.
Blank would later return to Tri State, now an employee who was, essentially, running the business for Mitchell’s widow. Wanting to grow the company further, Blank soon persuaded Miss Mitchell to sell the company back to him, which she did in the mid 1960’s making Bob Blank the sole owner of Tri State.
Business was booming and around 1968 Tri State moved to 151 Vance (pictured above) where it operated for the next 37 years. Bob retired in 1985 and sold the business to his son Fred Blank led & grew the business, creating the Digital Services division which focused on the transition the industry faced, migrating away from film projectors to an all digital distribution and projection platform. This group was led by long time employee Kobe Bone who, in 2017, Purchased the division, and re-branding as today’s Tri State Digital Services.
Today TDS employs just under 50 people with a presence in most major markets in the US. TDS continues to serve the commercial cinema industry and is continuing to grow with diversified audio/video sales and service into the broader market.