Some things haven’t changed much since E.J. Grove started his own refrigeration business in Alliance in 1935.
The foundation of E.J.’s business model was to provide quality workmanship and products at a fair price with excellent service.
Fast-forward 83 years to 2018. Grove Appliance is one of Stark County’s leading independent appliance, electronics and furniture stores. Grove still operates according to E.J.’s founding business principles.
“To succeed, you have to earn your customers’ trust,” said Dave Mitchell, president of Grove Appliance. “You can only do that by selling quality products at competitive prices. Our focus on service also has helped us.”
Dave joined Grove in 1983. He’s married to Beth (Grove) Mitchell, granddaughter of the late E.J. Grove and daughter of the late Charles Grove, who managed the business until he passed in 2011.
Chas Mitchell — Dave and Beth’s son — represents the fourth generation of the Grove family involved in the business.
Beth is treasurer and Chas is vice president.
It may be a little too early to think about the fifth generation in the family business, but Chas and his wife, Jaclyn — a third- and fourth-grade teacher at Avondale Elementary — are expecting.
Grove sells stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines and dryers. The store also sells TVs, mattresses, furniture, vacuums and more.
Best-selling brands include Frigidaire, GE, Maytag, Speed Queen, Whirlpool and White Dove. The store carries nearly three-dozen brands.
Grove is a member of the Nationwide Buying Group, a multi-billion-dollar co-op that enables the store to purchase appliances and electronics at significant discounts.
“We pass those savings on to our customers,” Dave said.
New Years, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Black Friday sales drive significant business for the store.
Grove often sees a boost in business when national appliance and furniture retailers advertise for these popular holidays.
“Many times, our loyal customers think of us first when they see a competitor’s ad,” Dave said. “They bring it in because they prefer dealing with Grove Appliance.”
There’s good reason. Grove scored No. 2 in the nation among independent appliance retailers for name recognition within its community.
But, that doesn’t mean hard work still isn’t necessary.
There’s a lot of competition in the appliance and furniture industries. Grove competes with big-box retailers, online retailers and other independents in Stark County.
“Stark County is a little unusual,” Dave said. “We have quite a few independent stores in this community. Some markets have none.”
While online retailers like Amazon have disrupted certain industries, there will always be a place for stores like Grove in the appliance and furniture industries.
“There will always be a need for hard-working, energetic independents in our industry,” Dave said. “While you can shop for a lot of products online, appliances and furniture are a little tougher. By offering great products, delivery and installation, we truly have an edge.”
Grove’s service department also makes it unique. The store has three service technicians and employs five full-time employees in its service department.
“Service work takes a lot of time and effort,” Dave said. “But we invest in it because we want to be in control of the service our customers receive. We want them to be satisfied with the whole Grove experience.”
People also make a big difference.
“We’re so very fortunate to have the group of employees that we have,” Dave said.
That group includes people like Bob Slutz Jr., the service manager, who’s worked at Grove for 42 years. His father, Bob Sr., worked at the store for 50 years. Salesman Scott Cline has worked at Grove for 30 years.
Grove employees do what they can to ensure all customers leave satisfied.
“Our entire team works hard and is dedicated to doing what we need to do to satisfy everyone who comes through the door,” Dave said.
Between 15 and 20 orders are delivered every day, most within a 25-mile radius of the store — from Alliance to Canton to Carrollton to Deerfield to Lisbon to Lake Milton to Louisville to Minerva to Salem.
Grove is also committed to — and cares about — the community.
“We’re proud of our heritage,” Dave said. “We’re proud to be involved in this community. When you shop at Grove, you’re supporting a tradition of excellence, neighbor to neighbor.”
No one can predict what the future might hold for the furniture and appliance industry, or for retail in general, for that matter.
But, if Grove Appliance continues to build on its Stark County-inspired business fundamentals, it’s not a stretch to imagine the store making customers happy for many generations to come.