TRURO — Dunes 102.3 FM is under new ownership, now that restaurateur and radio personality Ron Robin has sold the 5,000-watt classic rock radio station to Gary Hanna, owner of Mixhits Radio.
Mixhits creates pre-programmed audio for such chains as Dunkin’, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Burger King, and Ninety-Nine Restaurants, but Hanna intends to keep the new Dunes local and live.
“I’ve wanted to own a radio station ever since I was listening to Ron on the radio,” said Hanna, 54, who lives in Grafton, and, this summer, South Yarmouth. Robin, who owns the Mews restaurant in Provincetown, was a popular DJ in Boston in the ’70s.
The station’s purchase price was $180,000, far less than the $550,000 that Robin, his husband, Edmund Teo, and former business partner Tom Troland reportedly paid in 2007 when they bought it from Karl Nurse.
The Dunes playlist has become more contemporary — Robin offered hits from the ’60s through the ’80s, but Hanna is focusing on the ’80s through the present. Despite the shift, Hanna’s reasons for owning a small, independent station are much the same as Robin’s.
Hanna went from working at Dunes rival Cape 104 to playing weddings as a DJ — leaving him with an allergic reaction to the song “Celebration” — before going into the business side of radio. At the heart of it, he said, is that “I like entertaining people.”
He owned a business that sold sound system equipment and, in 2011, came up with the concept of creating syndicated programs for businesses to play for customers, which he called Mixhits Radio.
The new Dunes will feature live programming from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Hanna said. While most large-market stations have mostly gone to syndicated programs, Hanna wants to keep his playlists upbeat and local. He wants to talk about what is happening on the Outer Cape. His DJs will, for example, do public service announcements that promote local causes and charities, much the way Robin did.
“I want to bring radio back to what it used to be,” he said. Owning a radio station for the first time, Hanna jokingly added, is part mid-life crisis and part reaction to Covid-19.
“Mixhits was running itself, and I was sitting at home, bored,” Hanna said.
Some of the on-air voices will be well known to Cape Cod ears: morning host Stephanie Viva, for example, is half of WCOD’s “Dan and Stephanie”; she got laid off by iHeart Media in 2002 along with hundreds of others nationwide. Lady D — who should not be mistaken for WOMR’s Lady Di — will host an afternoon show; Hanna described her as a Harley-riding, German-shepherd-loving radio personality from the Boston area.
The 78-year-old Robin, whose smooth, trained voice has not changed, was more than ready to sell the station.
“I’m a performer,” Robin said. “The business part of it gets in the way. It’s not the part I like.” He had not been able to find an advertising representative for the Dunes, and he himself could not continue to do live shows.
Robin, who legally changed his last name in 2006 from Polcari to align with his favorite and most long-lasting on-air moniker, said he needed to focus on the Mews. He said that he and Teo recently purchased the restaurant’s building.
Though he did not disclose his plans, it’s unlikely Robin will leave the airwaves entirely. Radio is what he has done since he was still at Emerson College in 1964 and knocked on station doors until he was hired by WLYN in Lynn.
His first love, African-American spirituals, quickly developed into Chuck Berry and the birth of rock ’n’ roll. Then, in the 1970s, Robin noticed that no one in radio was playing what was all the rage in clubs — disco. He bought his own airtime on WBOS to play disco music and interview such stars as Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, and Patti LaBelle.
As a DJ, Robin rose fast in Boston, which was ranked the seventh-largest radio market in the U.S. back then and is 10th now. (Cape Cod is 195th.) For Robin, however, the in-your-face style of shock jocks ushered in an era that did not appeal. At his last Boston station, WHDH, he was paired with a shock jock. “We were total opposites,” he said.
In 1983, after the death of his partner, Dennis Langly, at age 38 from AIDS, Robin decided it was time to move to Provincetown. He originally intended to open a nightclub, but the business he bought “happened to have a whole restaurant attached to it,” he said. The Mews, which Robin moved in 1993 from its former 359 Commercial St. location to 429 Commercial, the site of Franco’s by the Sea, has become a year-round mainstay, employing 50 people in the summer.
But Robin, along with local performer Peter Donnelly, has kept his nightclub dream alive by hosting Coffeehouse at the Mews on Monday nights in the off season, featuring live weekly performances and an open mic.
“Personally, it’s my night out,” Robin said of the Coffeehouse. “It is just so much fun. I’ve always wanted to share my excitement about music.”