VINELAND — In business for 29 years, Appliances Plus Video has witnessed major changes in what people can expect from their washers, dryers, televisions and refrigerators.
The Vineland company has also seen the rise of large chain home-improvement stores and online retailers that emerged as competitors.
But this also ensured the local business set itself apart, said Sal Venuto, 54, who co-owns the South Delsea Drive store with childhood-friend, Rich Curcio, also 54.
Appliances Plus Video carries more than 53 brands of appliances in a 14,200-square-foot showroom — a size not intended to give it bragging rights but the capacity to carry as many options as possible.
The 10-employee staff also takes specialized training and develops an expertise on the products, said Venuto, of Vineland.
“One of the reasons that’s important is it’s all we do,” he said. “Unlike a home improvement center, all we do is sell appliances and televisions. Because of that we’re experts in our field. If we didn’t offer all the brands we offer and if we didn’t have the specialists here, we would have not a market to sell to.”
The appliance store also has the distinction of being in a state Urban Enterprise Zone, which means it collects only half of the state’s 7 percent sales tax.
This had an immediate impact when the business was first included in the zone in 1986, but one that still helps it today, Venuto said.
“The UEZ sales tax reduction for us has prevented people from shopping online because most people shop online in order to save the sales tax,” he said. “And with 3.5 percent tax it’s not worth taking a risk in having someone receive something that’s damaged or not dealing with an individual, so it’s a big plus for us.”
Meanwhile, appliances themselves have changed.
Refrigerator capacities are larger while still taking up the same space as their predecessors.
Years ago, oven temperatures could vary by as much as five degrees; now they vary less than one degree, Venuto said.
They have also become more energy efficient.
Energy Star, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, says pre-1993 freezers and refrigerators can cost more than $100 a year in electricity rather than newer Energy Star qualified ones.
In the years before the housing downturn, Venuto said, new construction put the business in its heyday, as work came from builders and consumers upgrading from the traditional appliance packages in new homes.
When the housing market slowed, the store shifted its emphasis to walk-in and retail traffic.
“Now we’re pushing more for the replacement market and high-efficiency appliances that can save you money in the long run,” he said.
Through all the changes, the business has remained a staple in Vineland from when the two owners bought the original location in downtown Vineland before moving to a store three times larger in 2003.
Venuto and Curcio were friends since freshmen year of high school in Vineland. They became business owners in their mid-20s.
“We always talked about getting into business together,” Venuto said, “and then the opportunity came up.”
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