Tom Peterson - A Portland Television Icon

tom peterson

In the realm of commercial pitchmen, Portland's own Tom Peterson was one of the best. Maybe very well THE best ever. Tom personified the Rose City: quirky, home-grown, and fun.

Tom and his wife Gloria opened their first store in 1964 over on SE 82nd and Foster Rd.

He was quite successful right out of the chute, selling appliances, electronics, and furniture to the Portland masses. By the 1980's, he was a millionaire and was a large part of Portland television, known for starring in his own commercials, which he also wrote.

Tom was a long-time sponsor of Don Owen's Portland Wrestling. I vividly remember seeing him every Saturday night on KPTV-12, promoting his sales on the week items.

There were times the pro wrestlers would come to his stores to take pictures and sign autographs with the fans. I even recall Tom and long-time Portland Wrestling villain, Buddy Rose, having a hockey shoot-off. I'm not sure where it happened though.

tom peterson alarm clock

I believe his most famous set of commercials were his late-night sales ones, reminding viewers that his stores were open until 3am, with Tom knocking on your TV screen, demanding that you, "WAKE UP! WAKE UP!"....all with a smile on his face, of course. 

I don't know about you, but I really respect business owners that have the guts to star in their own commercials. It shows people that they are real and not out-of-touch with them.

He eventually had three stores at 82nd and Foster, all within a block of one another. Tom was down-to-earth and always came across as just one of the guys.

Local Portland pop radio station, Z-100, even produced a song called, "I Woke Up With A Tom Peterson Haircut" in 1987, which sold 5,000 singles and even had Tom singing in it. Well, sort of singing. haha.

A friend of this web site, Kevin Turner from right here in Portland, found this gem and sent it to me. Indulge in the memories and enjoy!

At that time, Tom was even distributing Tom Peterson alarm clocks, with his voice being the alarm, beckoning sleepy people everywhere to wake up. The clocks and his wristwatches are now a part of Portland history and quite the collector's items.

Next time you're standing around the water cooler at work, you can spout off a bit of trivia that The front-man of Seattle's band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, wore a Tom Peterson wristwatch.

If you look close while watching the movies, "My Own Private Idaho" and "Mr. Holland's Opus," you can see our local celebrity in cameo roles.

Look at all that groovy trivia you just gained! Your co-workers will ooh and ahh over your vast knowledge. ;)

Tom had regular giveaways of coloring books, T-shirts, cups and other personalized goodies.

To celebrate the opening of his third store, he had barbers come in and provide his notorious flat-top hair cuts to anyone wanting to sport one. That promotion went over so well that it became a weekly event.

There were even Tom Peterson cut-out masks! haha. Someone suggested to Tom that they be remade into full masks, but he declined, stating that he didn't want to take the chance of someone holding up a bank with his face! ;)

tom petersons store

We all make mistakes. Tom's big mistake was buying Stereo Super Stores, another local retailer who had just filed bankruptcy, and turning it into his own. I always referred to them as Stereo Stupid Stores.

His wife, Gloria, strongly suggested he not take them over, but Tom was determined to grab more real estate for his business. It was his downfall. In October of 1991, he filed for Chapter 11, protecting himself from a storm of debts. He also closed his original store in SE Portland.

After all the consolidating was done, with television ads still running and explaining to viewers that he and Gloria needed their help, the next year, the 82nd and Foster store was re-opened, this time as "Tom Peterson's and Gloria's Too."

Eventually, their business moved to it's final location at SE Insley, closing for good in 2009. Tom's failing health with Parkinson's disease contributed to the closure.

Sadly, Tom passed away on July 25, 2016, at 11:25 am from Parkinson's Disease after a 24 year long battle.

Mr. Peterson will always be a major part of Portland's unique history. We love you, Tom!

Your Tom Peterson Stories....

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Who Could Forget Tom Peterson? 
If you lived in SE Portland, you knew where Tom Peterson's store was. If you lived in Portland and stayed up late, you heard his voice. If you knew …

Tom Peterson Collector Watches 
I have owned a Tom Peterson limited edition wristwatch for years. I got it for free when I bought a TV there many years ago. I did a web search to look …

It Wasn't Christmas Without Tom Peterson 
Ever since we finally settled down in the Portland area (well, Warren, ...close enough), when I was in the 2nd grade, I remember seeing Tom Peterson's …

I Should Have Listened To Tom Not rated yet
In 1986 I was in Tom Peterson's back office. It was very modest. I was about to begin my own business and he was counseling me. The first thing he said …

I would always fall asleep watching Portland Wrestling on Saturday night. Tom Peterson knocking on the TV screen, saying "WAKE UP" on his commercial …

(Tom Peterson's)...And Gloria Too! Not rated yet
I always gave Tom Peterson credit for giving his wife credit. She told him not to buy Stereo Super Stores and she was right. Part of Tom's enduring …

I Love Tom Peterson!! Not rated yet
Hey everyone, I recently ran into Tom Peterson. Totally recognized him. I used to go to church with him at New Hope Community Church. What a guy. …

Tom Peterson Needs A Portland Street Named After Him Not rated yet
Let's re-name 82nd Avenue in Portland, "Tom Peterson's and Gloria's, Too." * EDITOR'S NOTE * Haha. I would tend to agree with you that re-naming 82nd …

Tom Peterson Deals Not rated yet
Remember Tom Peterson's "Furnish The Whole Room" commercials? You could get a whole room full of furniture for a low price. It was 13 pieces …

Tom Peterson Haircut Song Not rated yet
I just posted on YouTube our family doing a lip sync to the song, probably in 1990. View it here Hope this can help you out. If he still lives …

Tom Peterson Was One of My Heroes Not rated yet
I had the privilege of sharing lunch with Tom Peterson at a Christian men's meeting. During a break, I said, "Tom, you are my hero." He stopped, and …

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