- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

THROOP, Pa. (AP) - Before anyone else tells her, Cathy Roman knows the “Going Out of Business” sign in the window of her Pennsylvania appliance store is upside down.

The co-owner of Shehadi Appliance figured it would draw attention to the mom-and-pop store near Scranton - something lacking in recent years as big boxes rose on a nearby boulevard.

Roman, 66, and her husband, Richard, 68, are selling the remaining inventory below cost with the goal of closing the store by year’s end.

Their decision comes after putting their personal money into the business for two years.

Cathy Roman now feels she fibbed when she used to tell people she would retire “when I die.”

Richard Roman started working for Jack Shehadi more than 45 years ago and purchased the company in 1994. He loves the job and seeing customers becoming friends who wouldn’t think of purchasing appliances from any place else.

There are no longer enough loyal customers to keep the business viable.

The market has changed dramatically from the days when Shehadi was the exclusive dealer in the region for GE appliances and second in appliance sales only to Sugerman’s.

Even in the 1990s, Richard Roman had two trucks, each with eight deliveries, running during the week and one truck on Saturdays. The store’s spots were common on radio.

Eventually, a related stereo and electronic business folded. The margins on televisions got so tight, and the competition fierce, Shehadi had to stop carrying them.

“The other stores were giving televisions away,” Roman said.

Paint peels from the outdoor “Shehadi Bros” sign. The laminate floor is scuffed. The drop ceiling tiles faded.

An independent appliance dealers’ cooperative helped keep Shehadi’s prices competitive, on par with big box stores.

As buying habits changed even being at or below the price of national chains didn’t matter.

“You can see the surprise in people when they say ‘Wow, you are the same price as Lowe’s,’” Roman said. “Then they walk out the door and go to Lowe’s.”

Another big store offers to beat the difference of any other store by 10 percent, plus take another 10 percent off purchases made with a new store charge card.

People have taken a Shehadi price that’s $50 less, get the chain store down $5, and get a store card for more savings. It’s tough to out maneuver those offers, he said.

Shehadi Appliance has been around for about 70 years. Its original home was a few blocks away. After a fire destroyed the City Line Hotel in the 1950s, the current Shehadi building went up to that site.

A visitor can see some personal touches, such as Roman’s collection of hundreds of antique cameras, including many Leicas, which Roman says are like jewels. Hobbyists travel from out of town to look at his collection. The Romans found old inventory in the back, including massive Sony Trintron televisions that look ancient by today’s flat-screen standard.

Nick Gillette, owner of Dunmore Appliance, another independent appliance store, identifies with the challenge of tilting against retail giants.

“The Romans were always there for their customer, answering the phone, taking care of things after the sale, as we do,” he said. “That’s how you survive and that’s what they did. They are nice people. It’s sad to see any family business close.”

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Online: https://bit.ly/1ulBmFV

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Information from: The Times-Tribune, https://thetimes-tribune.com/


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