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John Jowers, Antiqueappliances.com
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Those of us who are, to put it politely, in our prime, may remember a time when a refrigerator wasn´t just a big, rectangular box in the kitchen. It was a sleek, aerodynamic piece of industrial art. A Philco or Frigidaire looked like it had been designed with the same artistic flair as a ´57 Chevy. Maybe we even remember the old GE generator top fridge at grandma´s house. Those were the days!
In Clayton, Georgia, a town in the Appalachian foothills an hour and a half outside of Atlanta, John Jowers is doing a brisk business keeping a piece of Americana alive. John and his team at Antique Appliances (www.antiqueappliances.com) have expanded his father´s appliance business to include the full restoration of vintage refrigerators and stoves for a growing number of customers who crave the style and nostalgia of a bygone era.

Marvin Jowers, John´s father, opened his business after World War II. It began as a radio repair shop, since large appliances hadn´t yet gained the popularity they would in just a few short years. In 1952, Marvin bought a GE appliance franchise and began to sell and service both GE appliances and radios.

In 1958, he moved into the business to its current location, and it continues to operate as Jowers TV & Appliance. John grew up helping his father, and made the family business a full-time career in 1980.

Although the appliance business was successful, Clayton is a resort area, and the population base shifts drastically from winter to summer. And while he had never given any thought to restoring vintage appliances, John knew that he had to find a way to build his sales and keep his team occupied during the off-season.

"In the winter months, you have to keep your workers on board and busy. A couple of the guys came to me and said `hey, there´s an old refrigerator in the back of the warehouse. Do you mind if we paint it red?´ and I said, if it keeps you busy, go ahead!"

"We put it in our front window as part of a Christmas display, and suddenly someone wanted to buy it! Once it was gone, the phone began to ring off the hook—everyone wanted to know where the little red refrigerator had gone! So, we began doing one-off pieces for people locally. We dabbled in it for a couple of years, and someone convinced me that there really was a market for what we were doing, so I decided to build a web site."

John enlisted Gina Drew, a web designer known locally as "The Computer Lady" (http://www.the-computer-lady.com/) to design, build, and manage www.antiqueappliances.com. Once the initial site was launched, John says they began to immediately get responses. Most importantly, they got valuable feedback from their customers telling them what they liked and didn´t like about the site.

"Collectively, we worked together to expand the site from the original 6 pages to what is now about 170 pages, and we´ve torn it up and redesigned it 3 times over the last 4 years. We average about 550,000 hits per month."

But John´s foray into cyberspace did not come without reservations.



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