Friendly customer service is the cornerstone of the continued, substantial growth of The Appliance Barn, Inc. & Sleep Center according to owner Brylee Miller.
“We do not have aggressive ads so we rely on how we treat and service our customers,” Brylee commented. “Our large showroom along with good customer services gives customers a good experience. It is easy today to shop online. Giving the customer a good experience gives them a reason to come to The Appliance Barn.”
Brylee related that sales have more than doubled since 2012 when he purchased the business from Landon and Ken Beachy. That location had limited showroom space. “We sold everything we now have,” he noted, “but we had to do a lot of catalog sales.”
The Appliance Barn purchased the former furniture store in February of 2016 and moved into the remodeled facilities at 101 B Avenue in November of 2016. Brylee credits approximately 30-40% of the increase in sales to moving to larger facilities. The Appliance Barn’s original location was on Highway 1 south of the English River, and they currently reside at 101 B Avenue (former location of Kinneer and Hopf Furniture).
The Appliance Barn was started in a renovated barn by Joe Beachy in 1962 at its original location. The business out-grew the showroom space and it is now being used as a warehouse.
“We now have 10,000 square feet of showroom space where we can display a larger selection of consumer and professional products,” Brylee said. “We wanted more products shown and it has worked out well. It gives our customers the unique ability to see and touch before they buy.”
He also noted that The Appliance Barn now has one of the largest, if not the largest showroom in Eastern Iowa.
“We’ve always sold the product selection we have on display now but did not have the showroom space for them,” Miller pointed out.
The Appliance Barn built its business on sales and service of Maytag and Amana appliances, but today those are only a small part of the business. They now have the Whirlpool family of appliances, which includes Amana and Maytag, as well as Jenn-Air, Whirlpool, and Kitchen Aid. In addition, they sell and service LG, Samsung, Electrolux, Bosch and others. The Appliance Barn also sells professional lines including Viking, Sub-zero, Meile, Theremador and others. The store features special vignettes for those appliances.
“We sell and service customers regularly within a 100 mile radius of Kalona. But we also go as far as Des Moines, Missouri and Illinois.”
Brylee noted that technology has brought many changes in the appliances. “You can now get smart washers that will text your phone when the load is done or you can use your phone to start a load. You can also have your phone interact with your refrigerator, oven or dishwasher, Brylee pointed out. “The smart technology is available at an extra cost, but it won’t break the bank.”
B-Stock line at a savings
“Another popular addition is the B stock or slightly damaged appliances that sell at substantial discounts,” Brylee noted. “These mainly have some small cosmetic damage, but carry a full warranty except for the cosmetic damage. We try to carry a large amount of these in stock so we can hopefully have what a customer is looking for.
With the larger showroom, The Appliance Barn expanded its mattress lines and added grills and smokers. Previously they could only display 3 mattresses and now the store displays 25 mattresses from several lines in what is called the Sleep Center. “Adding the mattresses is a good fit for our store,” Brylee said. The store now sells Tempur-Pedic, Stearns & Foster and Sealy. The Appliance Barn & Sleep Center has also expanded to open a new store called Sleep Center by the Appliance Barn. They sell only mattresses at this location in Iowa City at 1275 Highway 1, #4, in a new strip mall next to Enterprise car rental.
He also added grills and accessories. You can find three major brands of grills and smokers at The Appliance Barn: Napoleon (Gas), Big Green Egg (Charcoal) and Traeger (Wood) Pellet Grills.
Iowa City installations
Another reason for the growth of The Appliance Barn is that they have supplied appliances to new apartment buildings and hotels in Iowa City, Coralville and Cedar Rapids. Iowa City buildings include the Chauncey Towers now under construction, plus other buildings like it. They have also supplied appliances for the new additions to Oaknoll retirement home in Iowa City, as well as a 7-story apartment building on Madison, built by Charlie Graves formerly of Kalona Amish Furniture.
“Even on these larger projects, service to the end user is our goal,” Brylee stated. He noted the owners of the individual apartments in those complexes must be taken care of. “It’s all about the customers having a good experience. And it is much easier to provide the experience when you have quality, long term employees.”
Service manager Ken Beachy, parts manager Karl Yoder, and sales manager Tony Boshart all are long-term employees. Brylee directs installations and helps out where he can in sales and service.
With the growth of the business, the number of staff employed by The Appliance Barn has grown from 12 to 24. Above Brylee’s desk is a sign that reads, “The harder you work the luckier you get.” He has similar motivational signs throughout the store to help keep his dedicated staff motivated.
When he was 21 years old, shortly after he married Landon and Carolyn’s daughter, Ramona, Landon and Ken approached Brylee about learning the business and potentially purchasing The Appliance Barn, as they needed a succession plan. He learned the appliance business from the ground up. He worked in installation for two years and in sales for five years, including two years as manager. Landon retired in 2010 and is now driving trucks.
Brylee managed the business for two years before he purchased the business in 2012, working out a purchase agreement with Ken and Landon. Ken continues to work as service manager.
As the business continues to grow, Brylee said he anticipates the construction of a larger warehouse somewhere in the Kalona area. While a lot of the services and sales are in the Iowa City area, Brylee said The Appliance Barn, Inc. will continue to be based in Kalona.
After living in Iowa City for the past 5 years, Brylee and Ramona have purchased a home on J Avenue in Kalona. “We both grew up in Kalona and graduated from IMS,” Brylee pointed out. “We want our children to grow up here and attend the Kalona schools.” Their children are Tate, 5; Sybil, 3; and Jude, 1.
Hours for the Appliance Barn and Sleep Center in Kalona are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sunday. Service hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Closed Saturday and Sunday. For more information on the Appliance Barn, visit www.appliancebarn.com or call 319-656-2573.
Contributing Chamber Author: Ron Slechta