Best Buy? Local appliancers say bring it on

The impending arrival of the big box Best Buy may be good news for pocketbooks, but will it leave locally owned appliance stores washed up?

No way, say several area businessmen.

"I'm excited about it," says Logan Martin, who took over Ron Martin Appliances when his well-known father passed away in March 2002. "Competition is always good," Martin insists.

Martin says his store does more appliance sales than any other in the area, and that number could soon get even bigger.

On June 20, Ron Martin Appliance will host a grand re-opening at its Seminole Trail location to celebrate its expansion into the Eways building next door a move that will triple the size of the space.

"It's going to be the nicest appliance showroom for 100 miles," Martin boasts. But it's been a tough road to get here. "After Dad died, we had to prove ourselves to our creditors," Martin explains. Living up to his father's expectations has also been tough, but he's determined to make it work.

"Dad had a vision for where the appliance market was going," Martin says. "We're trying to fulfill that vision. This [expansion] is what he used to talk about at dinner."

Thomas Snoddy, owner of Davis Appliance on High Street, declined comment. But John Maddox, president of four central Virginia Ferguson Enterprises Inc. locations, including a sparkling showroom on 29N, says a big box's arrival won't hurt business in fact, he says, he expects it to help.

"Best Buy, Lowe's, Sam's Club, etcetera– they don't intimidate me at all," he says. "It's a totally different market."

"I welcome the big boxes," Maddox continues. "They bring more people into the community."

Ferguson, like Ron Martin, focuses its appliance sales on the high end. Service, Maddox says, is paramount. Even Ron Martin's planned expansion is a good thing.

It will allow consumers to "see who can better serve their needs," Maddox says.

Best Buy spokesperson Erin MacMillan says the Charlottesville store is expected to open no later than November 29. And she agrees that local stores have nothing to fear.

Our store will "create a lot of traffic," MacMillan explains, but in a good way. In other communities where Best Buy has already opened stores, MacMillan says, "It helps businesses."

With the housing market in Charlottesville still booming, appliances are sure to continue to be in high demand. Logan Martin thinks there's room enough in the market for everyone to succeed.

"Best Buy," he says, "can sell $199 dishwashers all day long."