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).

Bounty from Shooting Star Farm on a warmer day at the Mineral Point Farmers’ Market.. Our fridge is filled with their tasty produce.

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.

Locally grown and milled joists and floor boards.

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.

Welcome to Bob’s Electric, Dodgeville WI

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.

That door in the back to the left is the one that leads into what is now office and what was once the family home.

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.

Bob’s Electric honors the past, and I hope they have a long future.

How do you make decisions like these?  We’re all voting with our dollars, aren’t we?  How do you vote?

10 replies

  1. Since my wife has a downtown business we know exactly how the big box stores can cut into her business. We have a Wallyworld down by the highway and they have a beaty shop. There is also a Great Clips (chain) located right across from Wallyworld. What she does to beat these competitors is offer better service but has not reduced her prices to match theirs. Needless to say she does a much better business with lots dedicated clients. (we do shop at wallyworld when we can’t get it from a local shop)

    • Yes, there is a level of personal interaction that just can’t be generated on a mass scale.
      Choosing to work with small, local businesses is a matter of what you value.

  2. We do get some of our small appliances from a local shop, but there is nothing that big around here. I go for reliability to get the job done what I want done. Often it is just looking around until we see what fits the bill, there is rarely much choice in Latvia (small market).

    One idea I did see, no idea which country, was a shop that sold large items but set up a computer in small local shops, he didn’t pay for the shop space but paid for each item ordered through their shop. That was a win for the small shop as they got commission, they also got access to goods they couldn’t hope to stock which kept people coming back to their shop. It was a win for the company as they didn’t have the overheads of shop space and got many outlets.

    As for fixing things! We were quoted over £200 to replace a set of micro-switches on our combi microwave. For the sake of these switches we are replacing it with a new one, because the microwave is so old it is not worth spending that much on.

    I have never owned a tumble drier, the nearest thing I have now is a dehumidifier that can also dry clothes and that is because we are dependent on communal heating for our apartment that only comes on when it is really cold, if at all, so drying clothes is therefore very difficult in autumn if it is wet – like now! If I had an undercover line that I could use I wouldn’t bother with the dehumidifier. We actually bought the dehumidifier after our first year here in Latvia when some of our books went mouldy in the damp, cold atmosphere. I do remember being asked by a delivery man in Colorado when I was getting a drier after delivering our HE machine and couldn’t believe it when I said I had no intention of getting one. For goodness sake, the place is semi-arid dessert, why would anyone need a drier anyway?

    • I remember how dry it is out there. I lived in Tucson, AZ for a while in my 20s. I had very thick, long hair, but I could shampoo it and go sit in the back yard for about half an hour, and it was dry.
      I intend to use a clothes line for most drying, but tumble dryers come in handy on occaission.
      The latest addition to both washers and dryers, we discovered, is steam. Steam in the dryer is being extolled as a way to save on dry cleaning, but as I don’t own anything that needs dry cleaning, I don’t think I would find it useful.
      And I tend to wash my clothes in cold or warm water to keep energy usage down.
      The addition of steam seems like a move in the wrong direction.

      • I don’t always wash on a cold cycle or using the shortest cycle but then again that is because we do a lot of “dirty” work and they need a good wash. When just doing town washing then I would go for a short cycle.

  3. We’ve always gotten our appliances locally. I honestly find the prices aren’t that much higher (if at all) and in the end, the quality of service outweighs the higher cost.

  4. Hey Denise the hardware store in downtown Dodgeville did go out, but much of their inventory, and some staff too, moved to Ederers dairy supply and farm store, on the east edge of Dodgeville. Great place, seems like a lateral as opposed to retrograde move.

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