Frank’s Appliance is a family-run business headed by Mark and JoAnne Keen.
By Andy Kriege, YSN
Frank’s Appliance Center and Sleep Source has been serving the needs of customers in and around the towns of Bradley and Manteno, Ill., since 1961.
To put that into perspective, that is the year the Berlin Wall was built and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin put the Soviet Union in the lead in the nascent space race by becoming the first human to orbit the earth.
The family business began when appliance service tech Frank Petkunas and his wife Adella began selling new Maytag models out of a building next to their home. Fast forward 60 years, and it is their daughter JoAnne and her husband Mark Keen who are continuing the family tradition with the help of many dedicated employees, including their daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Ryan.
Together with the help of many “adopted” family members, Mark and JoAnne strive to provide outstanding service to every single customer, the same way her parents did in the early days. In fact, dividing the labor like founders Frank and Adella, it is JoAnne who runs the sales side of the business and Mark who handles the service operation.
Frank’s anniversary-year celebration has been somewhat tempered by the COVID pandemic and related restrictions, forcing the family to “sort of plan month to month as we go,” JoAnne said. The company kicked off its 60th-year festivities in February by giving customers a chance to win their entire purchase for $60, in a reprise of a popular anniversary promotion.
“As you can imagine, 60 years is quite a big deal,” she told YSN. “If we don’t make a big deal out of it, who will?”
JoAnne hung around the business as a child but did not begin working full time at Frank’s until she was 25. She started out in the parts and service departments, where she set up the first computer systems for those operations.
“I never looked at it as a job,” JoAnne said of appliance retail. “I always thought of it as helping people make the right decision by giving them as much information as they needed. What some people call ‘sales’ I simply call ‘helping customers.’ It’s my passion and I absolutely love it.”
“I suppose in the back of mind I always thought it would be cool to run Frank’s,” she continued, “but never thought it would actually happen. It’s funny what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.”
It wasn’t always easy though. Over the years the economy rose and fell, brands came and went, and the way the business was conducted would change. There was even a time when things got tight, and the future of the business was in jeopardy. But “Mark and I went to a local bank that was willing to take a chance on us,” JoAnne said, “and here we are today, going strong for 60 years and counting.”
With any luck, daughter Stephanie and her husband Ryan will be the new faces of Frank’s in the not-so-distant future. Already Stephanie is often the top sales associate, and is learning all the intricacies of running an appliance and mattress store.
In the meantime, working day in, day out with family has its rewards. “Don’t get me wrong, we all have our moments,” JoAnne said. “But it is so awesome to be able to work with my spouse and my children as well as some extended family. I think they all feel the same way.”
JoAnne also stressed the importance of having fun each and every day. In fact, the company recently created a new position, Director of Fun, and designated special days when employees are encouraged to do lighthearted things like wearing goofy socks. Laughter Yoga and a Wall of Fame for staff accomplishments are also in the works, as are some really cool 60th anniversary t-shirts for all to sport as soon as the Illinois winter breaks.
“If we all love to come to work, it will definitely show in our work and to our customers,” JoAnne explained. “One of the best compliments I ever got was when a customer said, ‘Man, I’d love to work here. You guys have so much fun.’”
With that much fun being had by all, it is not hard to imagine Frank’s still selling appliances another 60 years from now while enjoying every day of it.
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.