Monday, November 27, 2006


Going to Albany Vacuum repair is a trip down memory lane to the era of personal service-- Owner Jerry Pearlman has been in the vacuum repair business for 45 years

As much as we like modern conveniences, the flip side is how annoying some of them can be. It’s great to have a means of communication from remote places, especially if you’re on the open road and need to call 911, or if you’re flying to meet family at an airport in Colorado and they need to call you- but gee whiz, wouldn’t you love it if teenagers and SUV drivers were banned from carrying cell phones?

And as much as it seems like progress to be able to receive messages at work when one is away from one’s desk or on another line- wouldn’t we all be happier if we could just talk to an intelligent assistant or secretary rather than being routed to voice mail? Of course, that doesn’t begin to describe the circle of hell one enters when calling certain government offices or large banks (press 1 for English, press 1 for customer service, press 2 for balance on your account, press 4 to get recent transactions, press a gazillion if you want to tell us that our outside bank teller is being robbed and we might want to alert security....). Seriously, I tried to call a local branch of my bank a couple of weeks ago to ask a simple question about a client’s problems getting a check deposited, and after about 10 minutes of not being able to speak to a human being, I started calling up every number in the book to see what it would take to have a real person on the other end of the phone. In the end, it was almost an hour before I could get a human being to respond to my simple question about endorsements on a check- and this service came from the largest bank in the country!

I think it’s safe to say that most Americans over a certain age are nostalgic for the good old days of real customer service from human beings, of mom and pop stores, of a time when we valued craftsmanship and wasted little.

So last Friday afternoon, when I walked through the glass door at 1004 North Slappey into Albany Vacuum Repair, I got both a pleasant surprise and a feeling of deja vu. There I was, back in the 60’s, in the era of personal service, when we repaired machines instead of replacing them. As I stood at the front counter leaving my contact information, I noticed with pleasure an old fashioned, wooden, mechanical (not electronic) cash register, complete with numbers on top.

I was greeted by the owner, Jerry Pearlman, and his son Michael. Jerry is old school, and Michael is “Old School” (as in Luke Wilson or Vince Vaughan- a cool college grad type of guy). In tandem they promised to have my semi-ancient (24 years and counting) Kenmore cannister vacuum cleaner repaired by the end of the day. This was thrilling to me, because earlier in the week an employee at the Sears repair store on Gillionville Road informed me that Sears doesn’t even service their older machines- not mine, anyway. I should have guessed that my vacuum cleaner was officially an orphan several months ago when I discovered that the Sears main store stopped selling my #5023 vacuum bags.

But the Pearlmans not only could fix my broken floor attachment, but also-- wonder of wonders-- they had the #5023 bags in stock. I dropped the vacuum off at 12:30, and by 5:30, it was fixed and cleaned to boot.

Jerry Pearlman, a South Carolina native who came to Albany in 1945, is something of a dinosaur. Jerry has worked on vacuum cleaners for over 45 years, succeeding his father who had a carpet and vacuum store on Broad Avenue. Jerry and son Michael split the store- Jerry operating the half appearing to be in a time warp from the late 50’s with hundreds of new and used vacuums, while son Michael runs his new millennium paint gun business in the other half.

As I waited at the counter to pick up my repaired machine, I had a close encounter of the black labrador kind as Jerry’s lab Bailey introduced himself by sticking his head between my legs and elevating suddenly. Fortunately for me, Bailey’s aim was off and I was spared an embarrassing and painful moment. That’s another thing you won’t find at any of the big-time chain stores- a family pet who acts as if he owns the joint.


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