About A Building: The Story of 1196 Bedford Street and HIG

Many old buildings in Fall River, MA, have incredible stories to tell and history lessons to teach about our local area and beyond.

The Fall River Historical Society on Rock Street, for example, is a treasure trove of local artifacts, including old manuscripts, drawings, paintings, photographs, furniture, and sculptures. There’s also the Lafayette-Durfee House on Cherry Street. Belonging to Colonel Joseph Durfee, who is famous for leading the Fall River militia during the War of Independence, this house contains hand-stitched clothing, civilian muskets and military weapons, medical equipment, and cooking and other household items, all from the 1700s.

Then, there’s 1196 Bedford Street. It’s a fairly ordinary, yet pleasant-looking, two-story building that is currently the home of Eastern Pizza. This 3,040 square foot, stand-alone property is only about 10 years old. It sits on a heavily traveled road in Fall River and is loaded with modern conveniences and upgrades, including central A/C, a fully alarmed and wired security system, high-speed Internet (Cat5), and energy-efficient lighting throughout.

1196 Bedford Street doesn’t seem to belong in the same subset as the other historical and culturally significant buildings in town. Instead, it appears to simply be the perfect place to take your family on a Friday night for a pepperoni pizza, a steak and cheese grinder, or a buffalo chicken calzone.

But there’s more to this building than meets the eye. If it could actually talk, you might be surprised to hear all the interesting events – some of which are heartwarming, others of which are tragic – that this property has persisted through over the course of almost 75 years. There might also be a good lesson or two in this building’s story for any and all commercial building owners.

The humble origins of 1196 Bedford Street

To really get to know who 1196 Bedford Street is today, you have to go back – way back – to its inception. The “birth” of this building occurred in 1947 when Romeo “Bucky” Charest and his wife Jeannette started Eastern Television out of their garage.

But this small space, that was the original 1196 Bedford Street, would not be enough to house the Charest’s quickly expanding TV business for very long. As sales of their televisions skyrocketed, so did the size of 1196 Bedford Street. The building was expanded multiple times over the course of the next 50 plus years.

In short order, Eastern TV grew to become one of the area’s premier businesses, on one of the busiest streets in Fall River, and 1196 Bedford Street became “the” place to get your television. In fact, if you lived in Fall River any time during the 1950s through the late 1990s, it’s pretty likely you got your set and accessories, as well as installation and repair assistance, at Eastern TV.

There’s no doubt that the walls of 1196 Bedford Street have seen a lot of televisions – and happy families – come and go. But, over the course of the 68 years that the Charests owned Eastern TV, it’s not hard to imagine what else the building was witness to.

With hundreds of television screens on all day, 1196 was there for every single exciting television event, like the Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show, Astronaut Neil Armstrong taking a walk on the moon, and the first-ever live televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. The building also was there for the introduction of each new and improved piece of TV technology, from wireless remotes to digital satellite dishes, to DVD players, flat screens, and, ultimately, today’s HDTVs and 3D televisions.

The Charests were truly pioneers in the television industry; when they started their company, only a few thousand Americans across the U.S. owned a TV set at that time. Today, billions of homes around the world are filled with televisions. Without a doubt, the Charest family and 1196 Bedford Street played a major role in making television sets a mainstay in all our living rooms.

Hard times hit Eastern TV and 1196 Bedford Street

In 1985, Bucky and Jeannette’s son Paul and his wife Judy took over ownership of the family’s TV business as well as 1196 Bedford Street.

So, it was Paul who had to deal with the unexpected tragedy that hit Eastern TV and nearly destroyed the building in February 2010. A fire had broken out on the second floor of the building, gutting the entire place and leaving the Charests with a $500,000 loss on their hands.

The Fire Investigator concluded that the blaze had been caused by an internal electrical system malfunction, originating from a single fluorescent light fixture in the ceiling. It was absolutely heartbreaking to the Charests to lose the place that they had called home for almost six decades, not to mention all those TVs. Seeing 1196 Bedford Street, his “home” since childhood, damaged so severely was enough to make Paul think about quitting the industry.

But, fortunately, this is not where the story of 1196 Bedford Street or Eastern TV ends. One of the reasons that life went on for both is the strong relationship that the Charests had with the HIG team – a partnership that goes back many decades to when Bucky Charest was just starting the business.

In the 1940s, Bucky crossed paths with Robert Hadley, the founder of Hadley Insurit Group. Robert was a prominent member of the community, not just because of his reputation as a trusted, local insurance agent but also because he was an active participant and leader in several local organizations, like the Lions Club of Fall River. Bucky and Robert formed a lasting relationship that was passed on to their sons. When Paul Charest took over the Eastern TV business and Robert’s son Frank “Brud” Hadley took over the insurance agency, the partnership remained strong.

The Hadleys of HIG have not just known generations of Charests but have also insured 1196 Bedford Street since its origination. They have watched the family, the business, and the property grow and expand for decades. Most importantly, as the Charest’s long-time insurance professional, they were ready to respond in force to help them get back on their feet after the fire at Eastern TV.

On the day of the fire, HIG team members, including principal/broker and volunteer firefighter Paul Burke, were on site as the fire was being put out and cleaned up. The main role of the HIG professionals was to assure the Charests that they were going to be okay – personally and professionally.

The HIG team was also there to let them know that their Businessowners Policy (BOP) had ample protection built in to help them through this unfortunate situation. Thanks to their insurance, the Charests had coverage for repairing and replacing 100% of their damaged property and contents, including inventory. In addition, their BOP covered the cost of paying their bills and taxes and employee payroll, and replaced the lost income that they would have been making if their business had been up and running.

Despite the devastating damage done to 1196 Bedford Street, the building and its occupant, Eastern TV, was back and better than ever just nine months later. The well-thought-out businessowners policy that the Charests had obtained through HIG, enabled them to redesign 1196 in a way that was even more appealing for customers and better for sales generation.

The “new” building featured space for an office, a workshop, and two showrooms, one on each floor. In addition, thanks to their insurance coverage, the Charests were able to stock up on everything they had before the fire – and then some – including 60-inch, high-def, and 3-D televisions.

No business owner ever wants to go through the experience of having a fire in their workplace. However, the Charests and 1196 Bedford Street were able to overcome that situation by having the proper insurance in place and working with a knowledgeable local insurer who could help them navigate the situation. In the end, a terrible situation turned into an updated and refreshed business and building that would endure for many years to come.

All good things eventually come to an end, except for 1196 Bedford Street

Paul and Judy Charest decided to retire from the television business in 2015 when it became difficult to compete with the big box stores. Once again, though, this would not be the end of the road for 1196 Bedford Street.

The building was purchased by the Mitsis family, the owners of Eastern Pizza, and is now “the” go-to place in Fall River for great pizza, grinders, pasta, calzones, gyros, and the Mitsis’ famous chourico and chips. It seems like 1196 Bedford Street is destined to always be a centerpiece of Fall River, regardless of what businesses come and go.

One other thing that has not changed is the longstanding relationship the HIG team has with 1196 Bedford Street. When the Charests sold the building to the Mitsis family, they referred the new owners to the HIG team for professional and personal assistance with their insurance needs.

When asked about the seven-decades-long relationship that HIG has had with this building, and the businesses that owned it, Chris Hadley, the son of Frank Hadley, and now one of the co-owners of HIG, shares this:

“Whenever a local business, such as Eastern TV or Eastern Pizza, succeeds, it feels like it is as much our team’s success as it is that company’s achievement. That’s why, every single day, we make sure that our clients, their business, and their buildings are protected by securing the right commercial insurance products at the right price. We are honored to have been the insurance agent of choice for a building that has been in the area for over seven decades, and we hope to continue to insure 1196 Bedford Street as long as the Mitsis family is there, and well beyond.”

If you are looking to build a relationship with a local, independent insurance agent who has the knowledge and experience to look after your commercial property for the long-term, then we would love to hear from you. Please call HIG at (508) 676-5949.