Surviving as a small, locally owned retail and service store is tough these days, but sometimes sticking with the basics makes the difference.
Rector's Vacuum Shop has led a relatively quiet existence in Bellingham for 75 years. The company sells a variety of vacuum brands, including Miele and Sebo, to go along with its repair services. It also offers vacuum accessories. The business has resided in a former house on the corner of Meridian Street and W. Maryland Street since around 1980.
Steve and Patti McCallum, who have owned the business since 1999, have probably seen more disruptive changes to the retail industry than the previous owners. Harold Rector operated the business from 1943-1971, while Kjell and Benice Lie owned it from 1971 to 1999.
Steve McCallum believes the reason they are still in business in a world dominated by online sales and big box stores is the loyalty they've received from their customers. At least a couple times a week a customer asks him not to close, and many say they come in because they want to shop local.
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How does a vacuum store maintain a loyal customer base? After all, if a customer buys these brands of vacuums, it should last for 12-20 years. McCallum said what usually happens is customers come back for the accessories, such as bags and filters, even though they can probably order them online.
Customers will also pass along their vacuum to their adult children and come in to shop for a new one. Or they will tell their friends or neighbors.
"We are just so appreciative of what Bellingham has done to support us over the years," he said.
Looking at the retail landscape, McCallum does wonder how small, locally owned stores will survive especially since so much can be ordered online. He does offer some hope, however, noting that several vacuum brands want a brick-and-mortar business so people can see how the vacuums work. He believes that's still the case in many other stores.
"Many customers still prefer to shop locally," he said.
Rector's will be doing a bit of celebrating for its 75th anniversary throughout the year, including some raffles and discounts. For further details about the company, visit rectorsvacuum.com or call 360-733-5792.