Customers come first at Nielsen Appliance

Customers come first at appliance store For 30 years,
Don Nielsen has emphasized high quality training and service with his workers

By Nat Levy – The Register-Guard
Appeared in print: Thursday, Jun 18, 2009

JUNCTION CITY — Don Nielsen says he sells more than just appliances at his store, a fixture in the community since 1979.

He prides himself on offering the customer a knowledgeable and friendly experience, rather than just trying to peddle a product.

He can rattle off the details of any dishwasher, refrigerator or microwave in the store. And he and his staff are more than capable of dissecting the appliances on service calls to figure out their problems, he said.

But Nielsen said it goes beyond just knowledge. He and his employees emphasize a relationship between the store and the customer. Nielsen said he feels like he’s succeeded when he sees second and third generations of customers coming to the store.

“If you treat people right they will come back time and time again,” Nielsen said.

Candy Cahill, the store’s receptionist and bookkeeper, said it’s rare for the employees not to get to know the customers after two or three visits to the store.

It’s taken Nielsen and his staff 30 years to build those relationships.

Soon after Nielsen graduated from Junction City High School in 1971, he enrolled in Lane Community College’s appliance program. During the two-year program Nielsen learned the ins and outs of all things appliance. He said he concentrated on several different types of appliances during the first year, and refrigerators and air conditioning units in the second year.

Prior to founding his own store, Nielsen worked at another appliance business for eight years.

The first years at his own store weren’t easy for him, he said.

He didn’t take a salary in the beginning. Instead, he and his wife, Carol, lived off her salary as a dental hygienist for several years.

Nielsen did everything he could to keep the business alive during those years, with family and community members pitching in to keep the place afloat. Eventually, the sacrifice paid off.

By 1988, Nielsen was in a position to hire Cahill. Six years after that, the store moved from the corner of Holly Street and West Sixth Avenue to the current address.

Since the move to a more open space, the store has acquired new customers at a higher rate, Nielsen said.

Ron Roggensack has been coming to Nielsen Appliance for three years now.

Roggensack manages apartments in Creswell and does repairs on other units in Harrisburg. He said he always comes to Nielsen to get what he needs. On this day he was buying equipment to fix a dryer in one of the Harrisburg units. He always feels confident in the staff’s product knowledge, he said.

“They’re really efficient at getting me parts,” he said.

Nielsen, 56, said that’s the impression he wants customers to leave the store with. He said he emphasizes extensive training and superior knowledge when searching for employees, a philosophy that makes it tough for him to get qualified people.

“It’s hard when you have to add a person, to find that ideal person,” Nielsen said.

In addition to the difficulty of finding good employees, keeping up with technology can prove exhausting as well, Nielsen said, adding that finding the most technologically sound and energy efficient units added a new wrinkle to his job.

Over the 30 years in business, Nielsen Appliance has become a cornerstone of Junction City’s business community. In 2007, the Junction City-Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce presented the store with the 2007 Small Business of the Year award. Chamber executive director Taryl Perry said Niel­sen’s staff shows a great combination of hard work and a friendly attitude.

“If you have something that needs to be repaired they take care of it right away,” she said. “They’re just great people to work with.”

Nielsen has become part of the fabric of the community over the years, helping out with the biggest event of the year: the Scandinavian Festival. Nielsen said his company donates all the refrigerators for the festival.

Cahill said it’s a joy to have the level of trust that the business receives from its customers.

Some people simply call the store and tell them when they need a new appliance.

“It’s amazing how many people will say ‘Candy, I need a new washing machine. Pick one out, and the door is open,’?”Cahill said.

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