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Small Appliance Repair in Hagerstown to close

Economy actually boosted business, but not enough

Economy actually boosted business, but not enough

December 29, 2009|By BRIDGET DiCOSMO

HAGERSTOWN -- The news that Wayne and Cathie Mullendore, owners of Small Appliance Repair in Hagerstown, were closing the doors to a business that has been in their family for five decades met with varied reactions from longtime customers, Wayne Mullendore said.

Some wanted to know what they were going to do when their electric mixer, vacuum cleaner or other household appliances went belly-up, he said.

"One woman came in, ran around the counter and started hugging my wife," Mullendore said.

Thursday will be the last day of business for the small shop at 13146 Pennsylvania Ave..

As a civil engineering major at the University of Maryland, Mullendore never saw himself taking over the family business, but he admitted a lifelong fascination with tinkering.

His father started the business in October 1959, and used to let him play in the store when he was a youngster, Mullendore said.

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"I think I dropped a clock and it started working," Mullendore said.

Mullendore's father, G. Wayne "Buzz" Mullendore, worked at repair shops owned by Robert Wyand and later Miller and Liskey, a Hagerstown electrical contracting firm. He started his own business, originally at 29 E. Franklin St. in Hagerstown.

A fire in 1962 caused Buzz Mullendore to move his business to Manila Avenue, and eight years later, a desire to expand the shop meant a move to its current location in the strip of stores on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Buzz Mullendore learned the art of appliance repair from his father, who was a farmer by occupation, but wanted to be an electrician, Wayne Mullendore said.

Wayne Mullendore bought the store in 1993 from his father, who retired and since has built a market for the handmade furniture he crafts and sells. Among the items he has made is the long oak counter at Small Appliance Repair.

Unlike scores of small businesses across the nation that have fallen prey to the current economic downturn, the recession actually boosted business at Small Appliance Repair, but not enough, Wayne Mullendore said.

Even with the focus on saving that has prompted more people to seek repairs on their appliances rather than purchase new ones, the repair shop remains, overall, part of a dying business, Mullendore said.

"I'm looking at a 10- to 20-year span -- the recession doesn't count," he said.

Megastores have ensured that purchasing new appliances is much less of an investment than it used to be, making it easier to replace than repair.

The need for shops such as the one at 13146 Pennsylvania Ave. has simply shrunk, Mullendore said.

Mullendore used to have at least two additional employees in the shop, but had to let them go due to financial constraints, leaving him and his wife, who handles the bookkeeping, as the only staff.

Once the store closes, Mullendore, unable to retire for financial reasons, said he likely will do some traveling before deciding his next endeavor.

His wife, Cathie, likely will look for another bookkeeping-type job, he said.

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