Economic downturn meant upswing for Corydon business
According to Inc. magazine, one American business ranked No. 39 overall and No. 3 in the retail category for the magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies in the country last year. In three years ‘ from $136,302 in 2006 to $7.7 million in 2009 ‘ there’s been a staggering 5,536-percent financial growth of the company.
This company isn’t located in Los Angeles, New York, Miami or the Silicon Valley (although that would be appropriate). No, the company is actually located in an unassuming, unmarked building overlooking the No. 11 green of Old Capital Golf Club along S.R. 62 east of downtown Corydon.
Appliance Zone and appliancezone.com, founded by Jim and Paula Allen, has been in business since 2006. Appliancezone.com, which receives about 15,000 visits a day, is now one of the largest online suppliers of appliance parts and accessories in the United States.
Jim Allen was in the appliance repair business when he started the online site in the basement of his home in LaPorte. He thought it would take years to make the transition from repairman to running a successful online parts business; however, it was actually a matter of just a few months.
The Allens moved the business operations to Corydon in 2007. Since then, the meteoric rise of the company has gained national recognition.
‘I remember when we’d get 20 visits a day; yesterday we had 15,000,’ Jim Allen said Thursday.
From the $7.7 million figure in 2009, Appliance Zone’s receipts jumped to $12.7 million last year. On Monday, the company announced a new partnership with Forrest Lucas and Lucas Oil to sell Lucas Oil products online and cross-promote with the Lucas Oil brand. Because of the latest development, an early 2011 projection of $20 million has been adjusted to $25 million in sales.
Those are the types of numbers that make the Allens smile almost as much as when their beloved Pittsburgh Steelers made the Super Bowl a few weeks ago.
When asked to describe his business in layman’s terms, Jim Allen said Appliance Zone is an online parts superstore for all major household appliances, such as ovens, refrigerators, washers, dryers and the like. As long as the part is still manufactured, he said, Appliance Zone can sell it. The website has a price checker where someone can enter a part number and compare, in real time, prices at online box store sites.
‘Ninety percent of our market is people like you and me. When the economy went down, more people felt the need to pick up a wrench and give fixing their own appliances a shot. They had no choice,’ Jim Allen said. ‘And I would say about half of our customers are women. People have figured out it’s not that hard to fix their appliances.
‘With the price checker, if we’re not the lowest, we’ll look at it and we’ll probably drop our price. Including shipping, we’re still lower than our competitors,’ he said. ‘It really makes (our competitors) mad.’
All sales are completed through the Internet. The only phone line in the building is a dedicated fax line. To make sure there’s never a hiccup with the website, which is currently operational 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week (it will go 24 hours in the next couple of months), Appliance Zone is on a fiber-optic line that’s backed up by three different Internet carriers. Shifts of customer service representatives sit at computer terminals and chat live with customers ‘ up to as many as 15 at a time ‘ to help them find the part(s) they need.
‘If we had a phone, customer service could help just one person at a time. With the Internet, they can help several at once,’ Jim Allen pointed out.
Appliance Zone employs 18 people here and has 12 contractors throughout the country.
The way the Allens happened upon Corydon is almost as remarkable as the projected $25 million in sales for 2011. While en route to Florida from LaPorte, it was a much-needed bathroom break that led Jim Allen to Indiana’s first state capitol.
‘I somehow got turned around on the interstate, and I actually thought I was in Kentucky. We pulled off at the Corydon exit and grabbed a bite to eat at Ryan’s,’ Jim Allen said. ‘My wife and I said to each other, ‘Isn’t this place nice? Everyone is just so friendly and the scenery is just so beautiful. It’s nothing like where we’re from.’ We even made it a point to stop by when we came through on our way home.’
Paula Allen said she still gets butterflies in her stomach from time to time when she sees where the hundreds of out-bound boxes are going to each week.
‘We ship to France, Germany, pretty much everywhere that allows imports,’ she said. ‘When I see those boxes go out with our sticker, with an American flag that says, ‘Made in the USA,’ it gives me goose bumps.’
Appliance Zone is active in motorsports, having sponsored several race cars in the past, including being the primary sponsor of an Automobile Racing Club of America car driven by Brad Smith. This year, the AZ motorsports operations are being scaled back somewhat in anticipation of helping with the Lucas Oil brand and its immense involvement in racing of all types.
Keeping with the motorsports theme, there is a free online contest to win the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Appliancezone.com pace car. For more information, go to appliancezone.com and look for the photo of the car.