Harry’s Appliance celebrates 50 years
There was no particular reason Harry Stephens went into the appliance business 50 years ago. “It was just a good job,” he said.
Stephens says the same thing about his stint in the Marines. Stephens said he joined the Marines when he was 17. When he was discharged at 21 he went to work with the Varretts and learned to sell and repair appliances.
He eventually bought Varrett out and became the owner of Harry’s Appliances 50 years ago.
Stephens only sells Whirlpool products, including Maytag, because they are the only appliances still completely made in the United States. “That’s not me saying it, Whirlpool says it.” He carries refrigerators, freezers, ranges, dishwashers, air conditioners, microwaves, washers and dryers.
Stephens also services what he sells. Within 30 minutes the store received two requests for service and two customers came in the store looking for parts.
“I don’t know how businesses can survive these days without service departments,” he said. If you buy appliances from the big box stores, Stephens said it could be weeks or months before you get a repair technician because they contract work out and no longer have in-house repair departments.
Most of the time, Stephens gets repairs taken care of in a day or two. “I don’t like coming in, in the morning, and finding service tickets on my desk.” He picked up the two service tickets of the calls just received and said his technicians would work on those after lunch. “Right now they are out delivering appliances.”
They only service appliances bought from them. “It wouldn’t be fair if we were working on something that was bought somewhere else and our customers had to wait for service.”
Stephens is joined in the business with his wife of 27 years, Margie. “It started out slow,” said Margie Stephens of her involvement with the business. At first she just did paperwork and filing, but eventually learned to sell appliances and help with repair needs, though she said it was sometimes better if she didn’t.
She has to bite her tongue sometimes because she said she has tendency to pop off at “dumb questions.” An example she gave is when she answers the phone, “Harry’s Appliances,” someone will reply with, “Do you sell appliances?” If Harry happens to have picked up the phone too, but hasn’t said anything, she gives him a look to let him know he better take over because she is about to mouth off with a smart-alecky reply.
They used to sell TVs and furniture, but Harry said when the market went to flat screens, TVs became disposable. When they break, people just buy a new one. With furniture, it was never the right color, fabric or style he had in stock, so he returned to selling and servicing only American made appliances and parts.
Harry said he is not getting rich, but he and Margie draw a good salary.
The couple spends so much time at the store that is where they house their extensive collection of memorabilia honoring Elvis and 50s-60s eras. It is a virtual museum, with life-size statues of “The King” and Marilyn Monroe in the window greeting customers. They will be there to greet them for many years to come.
If you need a new appliance and want American-made from a store that services what it sells, visit Harry and Margie Stephens as they begin the next 50 years at the corner of 10th and Main in Orange.
Harry and Margie Stephens sell only American-made appliances. RECORD PHOTO: Penny LeLeux