In 1945 The Appliance Center Co. began operations at 70 W. 10th Ave. in downtown Eugene. The two original partners were Theron Heckle and “Mac” Alexander. Warren S. Friar who would eventually take over sole ownership came to work at the store the following year.
Post World War Two brought many sweeping changes to the American household. The store would eventually have an appliance department with refrigerators, freezers, ranges, and washers and dryers. There was also a wall paper and paint department along with some of the full size FM radios and eventually televisions. The store brought the new and convenient appliances into many homes. In the early days the owners would load a pick-up truck with appliances and head up the McKenzie or Willamette River or out to Veneta and sell right off the back of the truck, returning to the store and then heading back out again. There were many in store demonstrations that brought in large crowds to find out about these new convenient and time saving products.
The paint and wallpaper departments would eventually close in order make room for the growing selection of TV’s and large HiFi entertainment centers. The electronic age had begun! The store became an RCA sales and service center and this brought about the changing of the company’s name to the Appliance & TVCenter. There was a record bar in the store and events took place where recording artist would sign records for their fans at the store. There were also co-marketing events with the McDonald Theater which was just around the corner from the store. The movie would let out and there would be records lining the sidewalk which led into the store where they would have the sound tracks for sale.
Warren Friar became a partner in the business in 1950 and sole owner in 1957. There were a number of individuals that spent nearly their entire working careers at the store. Mr. Al Scharlund started a few months before Warren Friar and worked for 43 years in delivery and sales. Mr. Ray Bally was at the store for over 20 years before his retirement. Mr. Jim Cassell was a well liked sales person who worked at the store for nearly 20 years, people were still asking for him for many years after his death in the early seventies. Mr. Mike Wieger worked at the store for 44 years retiring in 2005; he was the service and sales manager, and the definition of hustle and product knowledge. These above individuals worked long and hard to establish the customer base that still feeds the store today.
In 1973 the store moved to its current location at 1365 Willamette Street, just blocks from the old store. The facility houses a modern showroom and warehouse with ample parking. In the fall of 1983 Jeff Gaughan came to work at the store upon his completion of studies at the University of Oregon. Jeff can remember going into the old store as a teenager and witnessing a demonstration by one of the salesmen. All of the customers in the store were brought together as the salesman heated up his lunch in one of the newest convenience products…a microwave! Every one owed and awed as the gentleman’s lunch came out steaming.
The business grew over the next decade and Jeff purchased the store from Warren Friar in 1995. Warren hit the ground running after nearly 50 years at his desk. His retirement was cut short after a few years by his untimely death from pancreatic cancer. He is dearly missed. He was a survivor! The man had witnessed the evolution of television, the proliferation of the VCR’s, camcorders, console televisions and the early versions of what would become the CD. The birth of the big box stores, the thinning of the ranks of small independent retailers and the consolidation and buy-outs of the major appliance and electronic manufacturers. Over the years the store has remained conservative and has supported family owned specialty manufacturers and the Whirlpool Corporation with its multiple brands.