Burzycki’s digital integrations, including electronic price tags (left), have taken Keith’s to a whole new level.
NEAG’s Jessica Burzycki is building on her father’s foundation with passion and innovation
By Andy Kriege, YSN
Jessica Burzycki is a woman with a passion for learning, innovating and growing the business she grew up in and now owns.
Keith’s Appliances, a member of BrandSource affiliate New England Appliance Group (NEAG), is named after her dad, Keith Burzycki. A former GE Appliances service tech, he started the Norwich, Conn., company in 1976 as A&R Appliance Service, added Hotpoint products in the early 1980s, and within a decade was a full-line appliance dealer.
In her youth, Burzycki would ride a bus to the store after school to clean appliances for 10 cents a unit, and then blow her proceeds at candy shop next door. She would work there again part-time as a college student.
After a 2007 fire led to the closure of a second store in nearby Jewett City, Keith’s temporarily relocated to the family’s building in Norwich before consolidating the entire operation into a 30,000-square-foot facility down the street. The store continues today as Keith’s Appliances’ flagship location.
Burzycki not only grew up in the business, but at one point literally lived over it as a single mom occupying the second-floor apartment above the original store. In 2008 she decided to cast her lot with the family business, and began running the day-to-day operations in 2010. She formally acquired the company from her dad, now retired, in 2018.
Under Burzycki’s leadership the business has grown exponentially and now brings in six times the revenue it did when she first took the reins. She attributes the phenomenal success to the foundation laid by her dad and the efforts of a dedicated staff. She also credits her close affiliation with NEAG as another key to her burgeoning business.
“We have a very special affiliation with our buying group,” she said, citing the training NEAG provides as critical to her survival. “I don’t think I could be in business without them.”
Having gleaned so much from the group, Burzycki has made it a point to give back and help others achieve success by serving on the NEAG board. Her time as a director led to an appointment as vice president, with responsibility for helping members keep pace with an ever-evolving industry. “There have been so many changes over the last six years, almost too many to count,” she said. “You really have to stay on top of it for all of us to survive.”
Rob Balzano, NEAG’s director of merchandising, lauds Burzycki’s business acumen and penchant for quick learning. “She soaks up information like a sponge,” he said, “and is way ahead of the curve on adopting new technology and making it work. She has really invested an awful lot in her business and has done an amazing number of things in a short period of time.”
Chief among her Keith’s initiatives: Adopting digital marketing, changing her website, switching to digital price tags and implementing a new POS system “that ties it all together,” Balzano said.
Besides the internal changes, and with business growing steadily under her watch, Burzycki decided to expand to two locations again. After several years of scouting, she bought out an existing independent appliance business in nearby Mystic, Conn., in March 2020. But the timing of the purchase would prove precarious, as Connecticut’s COVID lockdown followed days later.
“It was very scary,” Burzycki recalled. “We closed on a Friday and left for the AVB Summit, and when we got back the world began shutting down. I wondered if I had just made the worst business decision of my life.” But as it turned out, she said, “It ended up being the best one.”
While Keith’s continues to move product out the door at an accelerated pace, Burzycki is well aware that sales will likely slow in the post-pandemic world. In anticipation of a changing retail tide, she has proactively shifted some of her focus to the service side of the business. “I have always been focused on sales, but I am really concentrating now on achieving a pristine service experience that you can’t get at any of my competitors,” she said.
Longer term, Burzycki would like to expand into new markets but has no current plan to do so. “Growing this business is always in the back of my head,” she said.
And while a female-run business in a male-dominated industry can be a challenge for some, it’s never been an issue for Burzycki. “I get respect from all my peers,” she said. “The only time it’s ever an issue is when they call a business called ‘Keith’s’ and expect to speak to a man.”
Expectations aside, at Keith’s Appliance, leading lady Jessica Burzycki is the man.
YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.