It was 65 years ago that Clinton Appliance & Tire Co. opened its doors at a small building on College Street. By the beginning of 2018, it will have a massive footprint in this town, with no signs of slowing for years to come.
“I’m 65 and so is the business,” Dwight Horne, president of Clinton Appliance & Furniture Co., said this week as he sat in his office within the store, located at 401 Northeast Blvd. “We felt like with the way our appliance business has gone, we could use the additional space. Three parts of our business have just blown up — outdoor power, such as lawnmowers; bedding and appliances.”
The decision was made about a year and a half ago to expand the operation. After all the proper preliminary steps were taken, grading for the foundation of the addition began last month.
The expansion will allow for more space and a better layout, where lawn and garden items can be consolidated in a much larger space, the room for appliance lines and upholstered furniture and recliners can be enlarged and a brand new bedding gallery can move closer to the bedroom furniture, where it should be. Bedding sales are up 20 percent this year alone, and business has been booming almost across the board, Horne said.
He believes that some people would rather come to a family-owned and operated business than put their reliance in big box stores, some of which are going by the wayside, including H.H. Gregg, while others are struggling.
It is all about customer service.
“We feel like we’re in the best position now as an independent retailer,” Horne noted. “We out-service them two to one. We bend over backward to help our customers. You’re not getting a pig in a poke here. If something happens with an appliance, we’re out there today or tomorrow. If you have a wife and kids and the washer goes out, you’re in a mess.”
Horne proudly shows off a Facebook post from one particular customer. She had a dishwasher that started emanating smoke after just 38 days. When she called the big store, which she kept nameless, they referred her to customer service. After many calls, including to the factory, she was told it would be three weeks before the dishwasher could be replaced. She declined and went to Clinton Appliance & Furniture.
Another couple from the Midwest who recently transplanted locally came by the business after finding it through a Google search.
“They thought they would have to go to Raleigh,” said Horne. “They found they could get the same thing here. They spent $20,000 with us.”
Feedback, good or bad, is taken to heart so that the operation can be improved, Horne noted.
While there are some Clinton Appliance customers in Fayetteville, Raleigh and other places, the majority of customers are within about a 30-mile radius of the business. The store also has a price match guarantee for other stores with brick and mortar locations in North Carolina.
“People who know us still come back and trade with us,” said Horne. “We want to know you and be able to say ‘hi’ when you come through the front door. The people have been so faithful and loyal to our business that we look on them as family. Our goal is to continue to earn their trust each and every day.”
Horne shared his gratitude for those loyal customers who have made it possible for the business to enjoy growth over the years. Clinton Appliance has 20 full-time employees, half in sale and half in service and delivery, and the expansion could bring another one or two on staff depending on how the transition goes.
Steel for the addition will begin to go up in December. A late February timeline is anticipated for completion of the project.
“We’re excited about the addition of 5,000 square feet. We think that will help us better serve our customers,” Horne said.
Bricks and mortar aside, family and customer service make up the real foundations at Clinton Appliance.
Founded in 1952 by L.M. Horne and J.A. Williams, Clinton Appliance & Tire Co., as it was then known, was a small service station on College Street. The station was located on the property where the Bee Hive thrift store sits today, right in the heart of the downtown.
In the 1950s, an addition was built onto the College Street structure and in the early 60s, the name was changed to Clinton Appliance & Furniture Co. and a new location opened at 401 Northeast Blvd. (U.S. 701 Business). The stores stayed that way — one on College Street, the other on Northeast Boulevard — until 1985 when Dwight Horne and Al Williams purchased the business from their fathers.
At that time, the College Street location was closed and all sales were consolidated to the Northeast Boulevard store. The College Street building was used as a warehouse until 1991, when a new warehouse was built at 1420 Hobbton Highway. That was the same year L.M. Horne passed away.
In 2002, the storefront facade was updated, and the interior remodeled, to look as it currently does. Now, 15 years later, Clinton Appliance & Furniture is growing again — expanding the showroom by 5,000 square feet, tripling the size of the lawn and garden department and implementing a sleek rebranding.
“We felt it was time to update our logo,” Horne said of the new blue and red design depicting a roof over the lettering, a window dotting the “i” in Clinton. “The roofline (depicted in the new logo) signifies we’re about everything in the home. We understand the importance of our customers’ homes and we strive to make their homes as comfortable and welcoming as possible.”
Regardless of the look of the business, Horne said, the goal of quality customer service stays the same. Clinton Appliance and its employees are very much a part of the community it services.
A McDaniels Crossroads native, Horne is in the Kiwanis Club and also coaches his grandson — he has three children and eight grandchildren — in Little League. He coached the Clinton High School varsity basketball team from 1998-2012. Horne and Clinton Appliance have supported local causes over the years, including recreation programs, the Chamber of Commerce’s Coat Closet and the Sampson History Museum’s military museum effort, to name a few.
Horne sees the family business as a perfect fit for the town whose name it proudly bears.
“Clinton is a great place to live, a great place to work and a great place to raise a family,” he attested.
Jason Smith is now the business’ vice president in charge of sales and customer service, while Williams serves as secretary and treasurer. Horne said he is thinking about hanging it up in the next five years. Smith, who has worked for Clinton Appliance since he graduated from college, has all intentions of continuing the legacy.
“We feel like this business is going to continue for years,” said Horne, “and we’re excited about that.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.