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Oct. 9—PLATTSBURGH — The world is a long way from the days of gasoline-powered wringer washing machines, says Wilson Appliance Centers President Nathan Wilson.
A century to be exact.
Edward Vincent "EV" Wilson began selling the state-of-the-art machinery as a door-to-door salesman in October 1921.
"In the scope of 100 years, we were selling people their first washer in 1921 to today where the concept of being without a washing machine is just completely foreign," Nathan, EV's grandson, said.
"Having to wash clothes in a sink is just not even a relevant concept today. Appliances are a staple in today's homes: washer, dryer, stove, refrigerator, dishwasher," he continued.
"I think EV had some foresight when he decided to go into appliances versus who knows what other options there were in the 1920s."
The family-owned appliance center began as Adirondack Maytag Company with a storefront on Margaret Street, near Arnie's Restaurant, in downtown Plattsburgh City.
The store took on its present-day moniker in the 1930s when EV added other appliances, like refrigerators, to its catalog.
Nathan became third generation president of the family business 60 years into the future when his father, Mike, the last of EV's three sons, died.
"I was immersed in it (the family business) since the time I could walk, but was really thrown into leadership in 1998," Nathan said, noting that he was 25 years old at the time and had experience in service, sales, delivery and other departments.
"Appliances are really all that I know. It's what I was brought up and grew up with."
CENTURY IN BUSINESS
While EV was still at the helm, Wilson Appliances weathered the Great Depression and World War II. The Defense Protection Act forced he and other appliance manufacturers to shift facilities to war supply production.
"So EV ventured into refurbishing used appliances, and selling handmade furniture and bottled gas," Nathan says in a news release.
Sons Jack, Ted and Mike took over in the '50s and '60s — during the Golden Age of Television — and shifted the business away from wartime era production.
"The Wilsons narrowed their assortment away from things like furniture and bottled gas to focus exclusively on appliances in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties," Nathan adds.
That focus remains today.
Wilson Appliance Center has three locations, including its headquarters at 795 Route 3 in Plattsburgh, Lake Placid location on Route 73 and "Scratch and Dent" outlet at 32 Broad Street in Plattsburgh.
It employs 35 workers and offers more than 100 brands of appliances.
"My goal and mission was to expand and grow, and grow by really becoming the dominant appliance store — fully encompassing sales, service, parts and stored equipment — for Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties," Nathan said.
That meant competing with cornerstone box stores, like Best Buy, Lowe's Home Improvement, Sears and Home Depot.
"In order for us to be competitive with (them), we have to buy at that level and that volume," Nathan said. "To do that, we are members of a cooperative where many, many appliance vendors purchase together."
Wilson Appliance joined its first cooperative in 2002 and now belongs to several.
"Having access to that gives us the buying power to be competitive to sell at the same pricing."
The industry flipped on its head during the COVID-19 pandemic when it had to chase supply instead of demand.
"In the last year-and-a-half, inventory has been upside down," Nathan said. "We have had to expand warehousing to accommodate more larger orders, because backorders are so long.
"Fulfillment has been a big challenge, though the demand is there."
Like many other businesses dealing with staffing shortages, the president said it has a harder time finding quality employees than it does customers.
"The customers seem to be there lately, it's just getting the product to them."
NEXT 100 YEARS
Comparing today's washers to the wringer ones his grandfather sold back in the day, Nathan thought continued technological advancements would keep the appliance industry relevant into the future.
"Most appliances today have an app that you download as soon as you get it to be able to control your washer or your stove or even your refrigerator right on your phone," he said. "The most common one is definitely an air conditioner."
The longstanding business and its heritage instills pride in the now president, who, with two kids at home, 6-year-old Colin and 10-year-old Michael, does not overlook the prospect of a fourth generation.
"While certainly we don't push anything on them, the idea that maybe someday there might be interest between one of them — that keeps me going to keep things moving in an upwards direction," Nathan said.
"So that they have that option, if they so choose, to create a fourth generation."
Wilson Appliance Center will celebrate its 100-year anniversary Saturday, Oct. 16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its showroom on Route 3.
"Wilson's will be celebrating and showing off their Appliance Import's showroom, with tastings from Executive Chef Curtiss Hemm from the Carriage House Cooking School in Peru," a release says. "There will be raffles, free giveaways, and samples.
"Manufacturer reps will be on site and a full staff will be there to thank the North Country Community for 100 years of support."
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