Owen Home Appliance principal Mike Owen (moustache, holding ribbon) and his family celebrate the grand opening of their demo-enhanced store.

Owen Home plumbs the boundaries of appliance retail

By Alan Wolf and Andy Kriege, YSN

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, live appliances were a novel concept on retail sales floors.

Mostly confined to cooking demos and generally found in luxury showrooms, these plugged-in appliances were the white-goods equivalent of a test drive at the car dealer.

Today, functional display products have become more commonplace, which only compelled BrandSource member Mike Owen, owner of Owen Home Appliance, to push the retail boundaries still further. His newest store, which just opened in September, takes appliance demos to a whole new level by running water lines to his laundry and select refrigeration lines. This allows customers — both consumers and contractors — to see the washers in action and to sample the fruits of the ice makers.

“Almost half of laundry is live,” he said. “This way you get an interactive experience, not just a salesman showing you product.”

Laundry pairs and kitchen products abound.

Owen’s “Hey Mike!” answer series appears on Facebook and the company website.

The 6,000-square-foot showroom, located in Laceys Spring, Ala., had been a work in progress since the summer of 2020, and the formal ribbon cutting and grand opening private sale and giveaway, held last Labor Day, drew hundreds of attendees plus the local radio station. Owen got the word out via Facebook, and also uses his website at OwenAppliance.com as a social media tool, answering customers’ appliance questions in his popular “Hey Mike!” video series. 

Since then traffic has been good, he said, with retail and new commercial customers coming in to see, and operate, the latest and greatest from such high-end brands as Bosch, Viking, Miele, KitchenAid, Invisacook, Sharp and GE’s Café and Profile badges. Owen also dabbles in furniture, and offers a wide selection of recliners and lift chairs from Franklin Corp.

A kitchen vignette

Sales, he added, are great, with the company surpassing its 2022 totals before the start of the 2023 fourth quarter.

But things weren’t always so lavish for Owen Home Appliance. The dealer can trace its humble beginnings back to 2016, when Owen, a former district supervisor, leveraged his 35 years in retail and over 25 years in the appliance business to rent a small booth in a consignment-type shop. People clamored for his pre-owned appliances, and he soon found himself renting one additional booth after another, until he eventually assumed the lease on the entire building.

Owen managed to squeeze an assortment of used, scratch-and-dent and, ultimately, factory fresh products into that first 2,200-square-foot store in Somerville, which prompted his purchase of the much larger property in Laceys Spring. Both showrooms are located about a half hour south of Huntsville in North Central Alabama.

Owen’s new 6,000-square-foot showroom features premium appliances and an assortment of recliners and lift chairs.

Owen is aided in the business by his brother, sons, niece and nephews, who together offer sales, delivery, installation and repair services. He said he received a further boost in 2018 by joining BrandSource, which opened up a new world of comradeship among his fellow Southeast Region members.

“They’re not competitors, they’re neighbors, and they’re always there to help out, whether it’s sharing best practices or even merchandise,” he said. That includes Jeff Weathers of Weathers Furniture & Appliance, whose closest store is 25 miles away. “We take care of each other,” Owen said of all his BrandSource brethren, and despite entreaties from a certain rival buying group, we’re happy to say that Owen Home Appliance is here to stay.

YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.

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