Toy Story 2020: Albert Lee Brings Smiles and More to Seattle

Despite COVID restrictions, customers contributed a record number of playthings for needy kids.

By Andy Kriege, YSN

“Tip of the Hat” is a feature that recognizes and congratulates those who go above and beyond to make the world a better place. If you have a suggestion for a person or a company that is doing something positive in our industry, please let us know at Communications@AVB.net.


Albert Lee Appliance has been a fixture in the Pacific Northwest since 1939 and is known far and wide for its great deals on appliances and fantastic service.

But in the past five years the family-owned business may have become just as well known for its charity work, and for what it’s giving back to the community it calls home.  

Since 2015, Albert Lee Appliance has partnered in the greater Seattle area with local TV station KIRO 7 to make their annual Toys for Tots campaign a success. The toy drive helps bring smiles, laughter and joy to tens of thousands of kids each year by providing presents to those who otherwise might not receive anything at all for the holidays.

“We believe that every child deserves a little Christmas joy and to share in the magic of the holidays,” said Albert Lee III, the retailer’s third-generation president/owner. “As a company we donate to organizations such as Toys for Tots to potentially improve a child’s holiday season and more importantly give back to a community that has supported our local family-owned business for over 82 years.”

According to marketing manager Kelly Miller, the company’s longstanding Toys for Tots title sponsorship paid off in spades this past holiday season. “This year’s event was amazing and was by far the largest collection drive we ever had,” she told YSN. “In fact, this year’s toy haul was larger than the previous five years we have been a collection site. The community really came together to make it happen!”

Miller said the toy drive has become more successful each year in part because people are beginning to associate Albert Lee stores with the annual Toys for Tots campaign. And with six showrooms strategically located throughout the area from Lynnwood to Tacoma, the dealer has proven to be a perfect partner for the event — especially this holiday season, which lacked a live “donation day” drive due to COVID restrictions.

“We have customers that come into the store and buy something, and when they see the toys and the posters they will run out and buy a toy and bring it back,” Miller said.

In addition to helping collect a record number of toy donations, Albert Lee donated $25,000.

In addition to customer and community contributions, owner Lee donated $25,000 in cash to the cause on behalf of his business. “Albert is big on giving back to the community that has been so good to all of us here,” Miller added.

But besides brightening children’s holidays with playthings, Lee also recognized the increase in the need for food among area residents, for whom the struggle to put meals on the table was greater than ever last year. With that in mind, Lee also gave $25,000 to Northwest Harvest, a Seattle-based hunger relief agency that was experiencing its own shortages in food and donations.

“There’s an unprecedented need in the state of Washington,” noted Gary Newte, Northwest Harvest’s director of sourcing and procurement. “The amount of donations has drastically decreased this year, and food has become a premium commodity.”

In a typical year, Northwest Harvest purchases 10 percent of the food it distributes and obtains the other 90 percent from donations and the supply chain. But those ratios have since flipped, Newte said, putting the onus on his team to stock the shelves. Yet with unprecedented need came an unprecedented response from Albert Lee Appliance and its third-generation president, whose contribution helped fill countless bellies this past holiday season.

For stepping up big and helping so many in the greater Seattle community, Albert Lee has earned a “Tip of the Hat” from all of us at YSN.

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, home furnishings and CE dealers.