As a child, Mount Pleasant native Jerry Tollison would sit contentedly on the floor, taking apart radio receivers and televisions only to put them back together again. His fascination with what created the pictures and sound began early and never ceased. Today, as the owner of Daniel Island Audio/Video, Tollison enjoys bringing cutting-edge technology to his clients.
When asked how he went from a curious child to a successful business owner, Tollison says it evolved one step at a time and was the result of plenty of hands-on experience. As a teen at Wando High School, he enjoyed helping friends install custom stereo equipment in their vehicles. And as more and more opportunities came along, he realized how much he loved it.
“I went out there and learned from my mistakes,” he muses. “You’ve got to learn this craft the hard way, not in school. Technology today changes every few months.”
Eventually, Tollison realized that he didn’t want audio and video to be his side job, so he set out to create a name for himself. He describes how he “just woke up one day and decided to do it full time.”
“I got to know the business, and my network of contacts kept growing,” he says.
Since Tollison is a resident of Daniel Island, it made sense for him to locate Daniel Island Audio/Video on Seven Farms Drive. His customers, however, come not only from Daniel Island but from all over the greater Charleston area. Tollison says he likes to give back to his community by participating in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the local chapter of the March of Dimes.
It’s easy to see Tollison’s enthusiasm for his work, whether he’s on the job site or in his brand-new showroom, full of video and audio equipment for new and seasoned clients to discover.
“We have a 110-inch screen mounted on this wall,” he says, gesturing over his head. “Plus a projector, some comfortable chairs and sofas, wireless audio over here …” He trails off and motions me to follow him to another room, where an iPad is mounted into the wall.
“This controls everything in the office, from the computers to the air conditioning,” Tollison explains. “Clients love it.”
One of his most popular products, he says, is Sonos, a compact high fidelity system that allows you to broadcast music, wirelessly, throughout the house. The Sonos system comprises a receiver or amplifier (to stand alone or connect to an existing receiver), speakers of various sizes and a sound bar (called a Playbar). The advantages are many: It’s easy to set up and customers can expand their systems over time—from a simple 2-speaker system, for example, to whole-house surround sound. And it’s all controlled by an app on a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Because he gets to show his clients all the exciting updates that can go inside their homes, Tollison regards his business as mostly fun. He says his favorite part is “witnessing the homeowners’ amazement.”
“But scheduling can be hectic, since jobs often run longer than you think,” he admits with a laugh. “It’s almost 5 p.m. now, and I’ve been at a client’s house since 9 a.m., installing more surround sound than she realized she needed!”
Commercial projects are also common for Daniel Island Audio/Video. In fact, Tollison installs wireless video devices in many area restaurants that allow patrons to play video trivia and other games on a hand-held screen.
In his non-professional hours, Tollison enjoys spending time with his wife and children, including six-year-old son, Sullivan, who is well ahead of the curve in learning the business—he even helps his father keep track of inventory. “He’s just like me,” says Tollison proudly.
Marie Sebastian is a writer in Charleston.