BELLINGHAM - A person can lug appliances around for just so long, and for Terry Lehmann, 51 years is enough.
Lehmann announced on Monday, Sept. 9, that he is selling Lehmann's Maytag Home Appliance Center to Judd & Black, a family-owned business that has five stores in Snohomish and Skagit counties. The Lehmann's store at 2001 James St. (near Hardware Sales) will officially change to a Judd & Black store on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
Lehmann, 65, is planning to retire. He's a third-generation owner of the company, which was founded by Ed Lehmann in 1929.
"My decision to retire became much easier when Judd & Black agreed to assume operations here," Lehmann said. "They are a community-minded store and share our values, which will make them a great new neighbor."
Judd & Black plans to keep all the Bellingham store employees, including Lehmann's daughters, Heather Hulbert and Shannon Joneli.
"For us, this is a match made in heaven," said Rachael Sylte, who handles marketing and promotions for Judd & Black. "We're also a family-oriented company and have a similar work culture."
While the business will remain a family-owned operation, it is an end to an era in Whatcom County. Lehmann's grandfather, Ed Lehmann, launched the business shortly after the start of the Great Depression. Ed Lehmann sold wringer washers door to door in Lynden, usually with two in the back of his car, offering a free one-week trial. By 1930, he moved the business to Bellingham and opened a store on State Street. He operated the business for 35 more years, selling it to his son Donald Lehmann in 1965.
Terry Lehmann began working for his father when he was 11 by mopping floors and washing windows. He began working full time at the store in 1970. By 1987, he and his wife, Jackie, took over operation of the business.
One key to its success is the long association with Maytag, according to Terry Lehmann. His service crew continues to do maintenance work on 36-year-old Maytag appliances. The service crew also has earned a reputation for letting customers know when something can be fixed and when it's time to consider a new appliance, he said.
The business also became known for its community involvement, including a functioning kitchen that has been used to let nonprofit organizations cook meals for about 13 years.
Sylte said Judd & Black will offer a few more brands than what the Bellingham store currently offers, but otherwise customers should expect few changes. Judd & Black was founded in 1940 and has also had three generations of family owners. Details about the business can be found at juddblack.com.
Lehmann plans a retirement celebration at the store 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26. The store will display a collection of antique appliances, including a windmill-powered wooden wringer washer dating back to the 1880s.
As for retirement, Lehmann said he wants to do some traveling as well as continue to work in his yard, which has appeared in magazines over the years. Just don't ask him to move any more appliances.
"If I could have a penny for every appliance I've touched over the years, I'd be a rich man," Lehmann said with a chuckle.
Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at email@example.com or 360-715-2269. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.