VINELAND — The city’s oldest appliance store so far has outlasted the recession and the 2008 housing-market collapse, while many other landmark businesses in Vineland have not been so lucky.
Owner Ed Mainiero, 54, of Vineland, said his Delsea Drive store, Mainiero’s Appliance & TV, posted improving revenues in 2011 and 2012.
“A lot of stores weathered the recession initially, but you continue to keep paying out without improvement. We’re seeing replacement business now, but it’s not growing,” he said.
He hopes his store’s improved sales are not simply due to inflation, he said.
The fourth-generation business started more than a century ago.
Running a multi-generational business does not guarantee success. And in some cases, the economy and competitive marketplace can be more challenging today than it was for the parents or grandparents, said Dawn Hunter, executive director for the Greater Vineland Chamber of Commerce.
“Nobody is untouched in this environment,” she said. “It’s not just a local market today. That makes it very competitive and a whole different marketplace than it was 20 years ago.”
Mainiero’s is part of the Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton Urban Enterprise Zone, which allows merchants to charge customers a reduced 3.5 percent sales tax. These zones also receive portions of the remaining state sales tax for promotions and marketing and other benefits to the district.
“It’s been a great thing for the Vineland area,” Mainiero said. “I don’t know how the retail industry would have survived without it.”
His great-grandfather, Biagio Mainiero, started the business in 1908, followed by his grandfather, Nick Mainiero.
“He opened a barbershop and started selling electric razors and radios and things. That’s how he got into the appliance business,” he said. “It blossomed when people started replacing their iceboxes with refrigerators.”
His father, Nick “Skip” Mainiero, took over the business and ran it until he retired about five years ago.
“I grew up in the business. When your name is on the sign, you have to cross all your Ts and make sure you take care of your customers,” he said.
Homeowners who are renovating their kitchens or buying appliances for a new home stand to save a significant amount in taxes, he said.
But Mainiero’s keeps a lot of its customers by repairing their treasured appliances, which can be like part of the family. Today’s energy-efficient appliances can help save money compared with much older ones.
“That’s a fact. But people have an emotional attachment to them. If you replaced a 15-year-old refrigerator, the savings on electricity would practically pay for itself. But if they have a good refrigerator, they move it to the garage,” he said.
Washers are using less water, which costs less per load to heat. And dryers, too, are focused on energy savings.
The appliance industry has suffered from the downturn in the real-estate market. With fewer new homes, there is less demand for new appliances.
“Once the glut of existing homes is absorbed into the market, we’ll see a kick in sales,” he said.
For now, he has been keeping up sales by catering to remodeling contractors and house-flippers. Kitchens always get extra attention in renovations, he said.
Mainiero said he enjoys working at the store because each customer presents a new opportunity.
“It’s not like a production line. You’re not doing the same thing every hour,” he said. “I might put together an appliance package for a builder. Then I’ll sell a TV and someone will come in with a broken vacuum cleaner.”
The store trades in big-name brands: General Electric, Whirlpool, Frigidaire, Maytag and KitchenAid.
Mainiero said his workers are skilled at repairs. Most have worked there for more than five years.
“We’re very family-oriented. We’ve taken care of our employees. That’s what’s kept us going all these years,” he said.
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