Riegelmann's to honor founder on Dec. 7

Neil Riegelmann may spend part of the year around golf ball washers instead of washing machines, near his home in Palm Desert, Calif., but the legendary businessman’s presence is still an attraction for longtime customers of his 46-year-old company.

So to honor Riegelmann’s 88th birthday on Friday, Dec. 7, the iconic appliance store on East Powell Boulevard is inviting folks to stop by during its two-day sale and visit with the patriarch himself.

“Dad will be here both days, so we encourage our customers to stop by and say hi to him,” said Jim Riegelmann. “We will have coffee and cupcakes here as well.”

The guest of honor is an admitted “people person” who continues to drop in unannounced at the business that bears his name. Now run by the second and third generations of Riegelmann’s family, the company has thrived and survived on its founders’ basic premise of old-fashioned customer service.

Neil Riegelmann was a 40-year-old salesman for Mark’s Appliance in 1965. Weary of working for others, Riegelmann took the $1,500 he had left to his name and invested it in renting store space, a delivery truck and various pieces of office equipment.

But acquiring financing to purchase inventory became an unexpected obstacle to getting his venture off the ground.

“GMAC turned me down, and the others did the same,” Riegelmann told The Outlook in a 2011 interview. “I was pretty discouraged. I already had the kids addressing invitations to the grand opening.”

But a chance meeting on the links at Pleasant Valley Golf Course with a mortgage lender the next day answered Riegelmann’s wife’s prayers, and Riegelmann’s Appliance was born.

The store spent four years on Northeast Second Street in downtown Gresham, following its opening, before moving to its current location on Powell Boulevard in 1975. It underwent a major remodel in late 2006, unveiling a 3,100-square-foot showroom expansion with a grand reopening in January 2007.

Yet beneath its evolution with time and appliance technology, Riegelmann’s has never waivered from its founder’s adherence to creating customers for life.

“Dad is a master of sales and how to treat people,” Jim Riegelmann said in a 2011 interview. “He’s the best greeter in the area. He may not remember what they bought, or their name, but he remembers they’re a customer.”

The Riegelmann family invites past and present customers to stop by for a visit with Neil from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, or between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. The store is at 301 E. Powell Blvd., Gresham.

Contract Publishing

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