By Christy Krueger
When a Tucson business sells more than a hundred appliances each day, it must be doing something right.
For Tucson Appliance Company, a number of strategies implemented by its founder and his successor contribute to its success, according to Chris Edwards, who took over the business from his father, Bill Edwards.
In 1968, Bill opened Bedco Distributing, selling evaporative coolers, motors and appliances. Chris was working at Bill’s side at age 13. He remembers his father doing very well for years – until going bankrupt in 1987. Six years later, Bill purchased the appliance repair division of the company he was working for and business took off again.
“He recruited me to come back to work for him,” said Chris, who was working at Cactus Moon, a local nightclub that later closed. “I was learning about service, answered calls and did deliveries and installation. Then Dad had an idea to refurbish appliances and sell them – so we did.”
As the company grew during the 1990s, Chris became more involved in business decisions. One of those was talking his dad into trying broadcast advertising. “My dad was of the old ways,” Edwards said. “He did bland print ads. I convinced him in ‘97 to go on TV.”
Edwards believes TV advertising should do two things – be memorable and make sure viewers know what is being sold. He said he learned that from Jim Click, a man he has long looked up to as a model businessman. He also believes in spending money to make money. “We pay to be noticed,” he said.
Edwards has certainly been noticed in the TV spots – dressing up in costumes ranging from the Hulk to tennis player John McEnroe. “I never took acting, I wasn’t the class clown and I never imagined I’d do it,” he said. But he felt the new direction in advertising was a positive one as business picked up, particularly in the scratch-and-dent retail area.
Eventually the father and son added an air conditioning division, a furniture store and TWS Premium Appliance Center, which offers high-end appliances. In all, the company encompasses more than an acre of space at 4229 E. Speedway Blvd.
“We sell reconditioned appliances, scratch-and-dent, new and high-end appliances. Most appliance stores don’t do all these,” Edwards said.
“We cater to apartment complexes and do 80 percent of the apartments in town – in replacements. We deliver hundreds of appliances every day all over Southern Arizona.”
While the company works with a number of property managers and rental companies, one of its largest customers is HSL Properties. “We do all of Humberto Lopez’s properties. Relationships in Tucson are a huge part of our success,” Edwards said.
That extends outside the business end of his dealings to include charitable activities in the community, such as making donations to homeless shelters, churches and schools, and giving back through civic organizations. Edwards is a member of Rotary Club, Business Information Club and Tucson Conquistadores.
He frequently refers to his father, who died in 2010, as his best teacher and mentor. “My dad learned in ’87 to put away (money) because the economy is a cycle and you want to be ready,” Edwards said. “This recession is taking longer to get out of. He was smart to teach me to pay off debt. My dream was to be an entrepreneur like my dad was – and I’m living it now.”
Buying local is another priority he learned from his father – and Edwards believes it’s a two-way street. The customer gets more personalized service buying from him than at the big-box stores, which he considers his competition. And “all profits are spent here, taxes are paid in Tucson. I’ve been in Tucson my whole life. I buy as local as I can at every given moment. My employees and family know I feel that way.”
Edwards also credits his wife for his success. “If it weren’t for my wife, Cynthia, I would not be where I am today. She is the perfect wife.” The mother of Corbin, 12, and Cammrynn, 10, she volunteers at Desert Christian Schools, “making sure our wonderful children are getting a great education.”