1986 was a good year.
In 1986 Mike Tyson became boxing’s youngest heavyweight champion, Frank Zappa played a crime boss during a hilarious guest appearance on “Miami Vice,” Geraldo Rivera showed us exactly what was in Al Capone’s vault and Van Halen began their first tour with new lead singer Sammy Hagar.
1986 was also the year that Mike Anderson became part owner of Schmidt’s Home Appliances here on Bainbridge Island.
Not even a year later the business, which at the time specialized in used appliances and repair services, moved into a downtown location on Winslow Way.
Ask Anderson and his wife Joyce about those early days in the old shop on the Bainbridge Island of yore and you’ll hear incredible fantasies about a downtown full of available parking spaces, vacation homes with unlocked doors and a traffic light-free route into Silverdale.
Could such a place have ever really existed?
It must have, and we have proof.
We have proof in the Andersons themselves, and in the pleasant small-town way in which they continue to run their business these days — albeit in a new building at 750 Ericksen Ave. NE.
“We’re very blessed, there’s just no other word,” Mike Anderson said. “Thinking how humbling it was to come from used appliances, and a beat-up $500 pickup truck, to where we are today with this beautiful store.”
November of this year will mark the 10th anniversary of Schmidt’s in the current location. The milestone coincides perfectly with the Andersons’ decision to enter a stage of semi-retirement starting this month, to pursue personal travels and spend time with their grandson, and to leave the daily aspects of the store to general manager Eric Nelson.
“After about five years we started looking for a new space,” Joyce Anderson said of the store’s move from downtown, citing increased traffic of both the auto and foot variety as the main reasons they decided to move the store. “It was a great space, but [there was] no parking downtown and it started to get really bad. The wonderful Blackbird Bakery moved in, and then our alleyway of ingress [and] egress was totally clogged all the time.”
Though the store will maintain the same policies of support and customer education, based on the Andersons’ belief in honest customer relations and low pressure sales, the repair service aspect of the business will cease this month.
“The service is going away,” Mike Anderson explained. “The thing of it is, industry-wide, we’re probably one of the last of the dinosaurs. Our philosophy has always been the full meal deal, it [was] the complete package.”
Anderson said that the decline in the offer of repair services across the industry was a reflection on the new expectations of consumers. Appliances today are not meant to last as long as they once were and, often enough, it is cheaper and easier to purchase a newer model than it is to fix an old one, he said.
“When I go over to training seminars that Bosch puts on, or Samsung or any of these guys, when I look around the numbers [of attendees] are getting smaller and smaller,” Anderson said. “The participants, they’re getting older.”
Despite all of the changes to the town they serve, the Andersons both agree that Bainbridge Island is still the same great little American town it was in many ways, which may be why they’re not ready to completely leave just yet.
Moving back and forth between here and Hawaii, to see family and still be involved in the business, is what they want to do right now, Joyce Anderson explained.
“It’s been a real honor to be able to be so vested in our community,” she said. “We ended up here because of how wonderful it was. This [place] was ideal for us.”
“It still is,” her husband agreed. “As much as it’s changed since Joyce and I moved here in 1978, as much as it’s changed in those years we [still] get people who move over here from the Eastside — or from Chicago or wherever — and they have just such amazement in their eyes, as much as we did back in ’78.”
Even as the Andersons prepare to spend some time away from Bainbridge, island shoppers can rest assured that their practical and personal way of doing things will remain alive and well at Schimidt’s Home Appliances.
“It’s very hard, when you’ve dedicated your life to serving a community, to just let go,” Mike Anderson said. “That’s why we’re not selling the business. We’re leaving it in incredibly capable hands, and we’re still keeping our fingers in it. Because we do care. We care very deeply. It’s not easy to say goodbye to your life.”
Visit www.schmidtsappliance.com to learn more about the Bainbridge store as well as business hours and inventory.