Saturday morning the air was brisk morning with cloudy skies and a bit of wind. I was keeping my hands in my pockets as much as possible at the farmers’ market underneath the water tower at the highest spot in Mineral Point (about 3 blocks from our temporary digs).
I’ll gladly put up with whatever weather to get locally grown food.
- It tastes better.
- It doesn’t have the tang of all that petroleum burned to transport it in a cool or frozen condition across the country or the world.
- It supports people in my community.
- What’s not to like?
In building our house we are trying to use local materials and local labor where ever possible. That’s going well too.
Now it’s time to select the appliance for Underhill House: a range, a fridge and a washer/dryer set. We started out at what have been our local suppliers from Madison: Home Depot and Sears. After a few trips to both stores, we came up with a nice, middle of the road set of appliances from Sears. And their current promotion is gives you 5% off your first item, 10% off if you by 2 things, 15% if you by 3 things and 20% if you get 4 appliances. Add to that 5% if you use your Sears’ card. And several of the items we picked were already marked down. The “savings” were compelling.
Then we realized we were overlooking a local appliance merchant in Dodgeville – Bob’s Electric. Run by Bob and his sons, Bob’s Electric has been supplying the appliance needs of area folk for 64 years.
We entered their little show room and spent about 40 minutes with Terry, Bob’s son.
The selection was not as extensive as Sears, nor was it as up to the minute. Appliances on the cutting edge of home décor fashion were not to be found.
In the middle of our visit, Terry had to take a call, and Terry’s dad, the original Bob came over to continue the appliance conversation. Bob couldn’t help me on the topic of true convection in a gas oven, but did have some interesting perspective on the history of making appliances. He remembers the days when replacing the fan in a refrigerator just cost $15 and was an easy fix. Now they cost more than a hundred bucks and nothing is an easy fix.
But fix it, Bob’s will. They stand by their products and keep their customers (who are also their neighbors) happy. As we talked to Bob we learned that his wife is buried in the cemetery of a tiny church just a few miles from Underhill House.
Bob’s Electric has been around for 64 years. It began in a nearby, smaller town of Hollandale and moved to Dodgeville in the early 1970s. In fact, if you look closely at the building, you see that the office area was originally the house where Bob and his family lived. As they grew, they added warehouses to the side.
Bob’s sons, Bob and Terry, bought the business last year.
Including the sons, this business supports 7 employees.
We had to put negotiations on hold till we could check the height of our laundry room, and Doug made a computer spread sheet comparing the appliances at Bob’s and Sears. The numbers would favor Sears. His spread sheet shows that we will pay a small premium to shop local, but we are back to working out the details with Terry.
I’ve seen too many businesses in small towns get beaten down by cheaper prices from the big box stores that now loom at the edge of almost every community in the U.S. Dodgeville recently lost a great, family-owned hardware store that had flourished for many years. Now there is another for-sale sign in downtown Dodgeville, and if you want a pliers or a new steam iron, you’ve got to go to Wal-Mart.
The appliances we are going to get from Bob’s are all made in the U.S. That pleases me on many levels. Supporting local business is a value judgment. Do you want the latest fashion and products made overseas? Or do you want something that gets the job done and keeps community alive.
Doug and I know what we want.
How do you make decisions like these? We’re all voting with our dollars, aren’t we? How do you vote?