CLINTON – Turner Appliance began with George and Cecile Turner in 1934.
“At that time we were electrical contractors,” said grandson Terry Turner. The company installed streetlights and changed the bulbs.
Though the company has changed and grown through three generations and 85 years, the past is present in the handmade light display over the counter, the antique irons lined up on a top shelf and an old railroad bell and lantern hanging from the ceiling.
When George and Cecile bought the business, the seller told them they wouldn’t make it, Terry said. “We were one of the first electrical companies in town.”
Turner survived because more and more people were using electric lights. The company began selling small electrical appliances, stoves and refrigerators, “a luxury at that time,” Terry said.
“Even back then we sold [General Electric] appliances.”
George passed the business to his sons, Don and Charlie Turner and Charlie’s wife, Voda. After Don’s death, Charlie and Voda ran the business and raised their children in it.
Charlie passed away Oct. 14, 2017. Terry and his sister Beth now run the business for their mother.
“He worked hard all of his life,” said Terry of his father. “He loved his customers. It was his whole life.”
Terry and Beth didn’t inherit the mechanical skills of their father and grandfather, Terry said. “[They] were both pretty much a genius.” Charlie’s obituary says he made headlines in newspapers across the country when he installed a television in a car decades before the practice became popular for the backseats of sport utility vehicles.
Terry and Beth grew up sweeping floors and fixing small appliances in the family business.
“We sold it, delivered it, serviced it,” Beth said of Turner Appliance.
Their father’s motto was “We sell the best and service the rest,” Terry said.
Turner doesn’t repair small appliances anymore. Beth and Terry are better with sales.
Turner Appliance started on North Second Street, Terry said. That property is now a parking lot.
In about 1962, the company moved to 122 Fifth Ave. South, “until we outgrew it,” Terry said. That was around 1987. The current location is 317 N. Second St.
“Dad acquired a warehouse… in the late ‘70s, and another in warehouse in the ‘80s and another warehouse in the 90s,” Terry said.
“His touch is still all over the place in here. You can’t open a drawer without seeing his writing.” Customers continue to talk about Charlie when they visit the store.
“He was the driving force,” Terry said.
When Westview Heights Townhomes were built on 14th Ave. Northwest in Clinton, Turner supplied the appliances, Terry said. “That started a huge expansion for us.”
Within the next couple of years, Turner supplied appliances to The Roosevelt Apartments in the former Roosevelt school on Fourth Street, The Landing of Clinton near Wild Rose Casino and Resort, The Fourth Avenue Lofts and Park Vista Retirement Living in Camanche.
Most recently Turner provided appliances for the Washington Senior Apartments in the former Washington Middle School on Second Avenue South.
Turner had to hire additional employees for the large projects, Terry said.
On normal business days, Turner employs about nine people, including Terry and Beth.
Melissa Diesch is the bookkeeper and office manager; Larry Wagner is the service technician; Justin Wallace and Marcus Huelett are “the absolute best delivery crew,” Terry said.
Jeff Glendenninger manages the warehouse, David Sullivan does part-time used-appliance preparation and Bill Berglund is the shop repair technician.