Brand Appliance Servicecenter Inc.: Repair business may not be fixable Despite decades of tinkering, shop owner suspects his time is running out

December 19, 2005

Despite decades of tinkering, shop owner suspects his time is running out Don Daniels knows his days are numbered, even if he isn't calling it quits yet.

That's a tough spot to be in when you're used to fixing things.

His Brand Appliance Servicecenter has been fixing stuff, in one form or another, since 1963. For decades, he's tinkered with everything from electric shavers to microwave ovens. But as gadgets have evolved, Daniels has discovered one thing he just can't seem to repair.

"Our business is not as active as it used to be," he said.

Most doodads these days are so inexpensive that, when something breaks, it's tempting to just toss it and buy a new one rather than spend time and money on fixing it.

With more gadgets being made overseas, getting replacement parts isn't easy. And sometimes the appliances aren't designed to be easily repairable, Daniels said.

Even appliance makers have been moving away from the service center concept, asking customers to return defective products and swap them for replacements.

It's all taken a toll on Brand Appliance. The store has gone from four full-time employees to Daniels and one other technician. His wife Susan, a retired teacher, helps with the paperwork.

Even so, Daniels isn't ready to give up.

A lifelong Indianapolis resident, he started working at Brand Appliance in 1967, became the manager in 1992, and bought the business in 1997. Now 60, he still sees the positives-like his loyal, largely middle-age customer base.

Location: 1827 N. Meridian St. Phone: 924-1386 E-mail: brandappliance@earthlink.netFounded: 1963 Founder: General Electric Co. Owner: Don Daniels Service: small-appliance repairs and sales Employees: two full-time, one part-time Revenue (2004): $160,000 One-year goal: Maintain current level of business. Industry outlook: Not good. It is difficult to obtain replacement parts for appliances made overseas, many of which aren't designed to be easily repaired. Manufacturers find it easier to simply replace defective products.

"Lots of my customers remember coming to the store as children with their parents," Daniels said. Indianapolis resident Dave Bowell goes in whenever his electric razors conk out. He often buys replacement shavers there as well. "Don Daniels can really fix things," he said. Besides that, not everything is disposable. "People will bring in a toaster they got as a wedding present and they're retired," Daniels said. Brand Appliance also gets referrals from appliance manufacturers and largeappliance repair centers. Daniels said he makes a point to keep in touch with these IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad centers so he can pick up the small-appliance business they eschew.

One such repair center is Appliance Parts, 8258 Center Run Drive.

"Brands [Appliance is] the best place to go for small-appliance repair," raved Branch Manager Kathy Johnson.

Daniels said he tries to stock replacement parts for as many different appliances as possible. In fact, the vast majority of the 3,600-square-foot store serves as a warehouse.

Brand also sells some small appliances, and Daniels has been trying to expand that part of the business. Electric shavers have been a staple for a long time and he has been adding more types of vacuum cleaners.

Still, the end is in sight.

East-side competitor Dave Roberts-known far and wide as "Mr. Fix-It"-is retiring Dec. 31 after 45 years of service.

Daniels has been buying Roberts' leftover inventory, since he doesn't plan to hang up his tool belt for another five years.

He said he doesn't expect the business to continue in its present form after that, but he doesn't want to close it down, either. Daniels would like to sell the shop to a large-appliance repair business, which could add the service line without starting from scratch.

At least that's how he'd fix it.


Don Daniels has been fixing gadgets at Brand Appliance Servicecenter since 1967. Business has slowed in recent years, but he's not giving up. He plans to work five more years.
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