The appliance lady

171117 Home Appl Lodi 0496A
Tracy Kelling works at the Home Appliance Sales and Service outlet in Lodi. Some people just call her up and have her choose their appliances for them. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studio)

By Bill Yurgen

Sometimes we notice that we have become so accustomed to how things are in the present, we forget just how different things were even a few years ago.

Not long ago, loyalty between employers and employees was pretty much a given. Not long before that, it wasn’t uncommon for consumers to be loyal to a brand or business.

The Importance of Customer Service
All of those businesses fighting their way to the bottom with the lowest price have come and gone. In the appliance business, names like Circuit City, Sun Appliance, or, more recently, HH Gregg, have come and gone because when there is a problem, low price alone, without great customer service, is meaningless. The lesson learned is if you find a really good appliance store with knowledgeable, caring employees, patronize it.

Enter Tracy Kelling, of Home Appliance Sales and Service. Tracy is the manager of Home Appliance Sales and Service’s Lodi store, and this month she just happens to be celebrating 25 years with the company.

Creating the Ultimate Appliance Expert
In an age when most businesses have an average life span of 10 years, and most employees stay on the job for an average of just under four-and-a-half years, according to Forbes Magazine, something extraordinary is at play here.

Tracy began her career as a waitress. She soon began working at a country market in Lodi when one day Brian Grayson, owner of Home Appliance, invited her to come and work at his small but bustling retail store on the square in Lodi. She would be involved in selling appliances, scheduling service and selling appliance parts. Her leap of faith that day would lead to her becoming thought of locally as “the appliance lady.”

“I have a daughter in law enforcement. On more than a few occasions, the people she has stopped have told her they buy all of their appliances from her mom. Selling parts and service, I am well acquainted with the inside of the appliance, not just the shiny stainless steel exterior. That’s why people value my opinion on what to buy,” Tracy says.

Going Above and Beyond
One of Tracy’s customers moved away, then drove 115 miles back for a dryer to match her washing machine and has returned for other appliances.

“In another situation, a customer called me to see if we were open on Sunday. Her freezer had quit working and a lot of valuable food was at risk of spoiling,” she recalls.

“We loaded up a freezer and delivered it to her at 10 p.m. that very night.”

It turns out many people call Tracy and just buy their appliances over the phone. She knows their family and their needs and they trust her judgement. In some cases, she is now selling to third-generation customers.

“Appliances have become extremely complex and connected,” Tracy explains.

“Some refrigerators have phone apps to peer at the contents inside when you’re at the grocery store, while other apps can preheat an oven or check the status of a washer and dryer. Some people love and embrace these new features, while others prefer to keep it basic but want good quality. We do our best to inform our customers and help them make good decisions that serve them well for years.”

Home Appliance Sales and Service is located at 110 Highland Drive in Lodi. Phone 330-948-4663. Hours are Monday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; closed on Sundays. The Brunswick store is at 1997 Pearl Road in Brunswick. You may phone them at 330-225-5807. Hours are Monday and Thursday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Visit them at