Everyday we rely on machines available at J&S Appliance and Home Furniture to simplify our lives. From refrigerators to washers, machines work hard to keep us clean, healthy and safe, until they break. When they do, the Pierce family at J&S swoop in with wrenches, wires and fuses. Paul Pierce, Jeff Fletcher and Ken Hanley, their trusted technicians, have the experience and knowledge to diagnose and repair right in your laundry room or kitchen. They travel fifty miles in every direction to Columbia, Pacific, Clatsop and Tillamook counties toting tool belts and parts to meet customer needs.
The company began in 1976 when Jim Pierce enrolled at Lewis and Clark State College. While in school, he traveled around, hauling away decommissioned appliances from domestic and commercial properties free of charge. Then, being the troubleshooter he was, he worked to recondition the machines and sold those that he could. As graduation approached, Jim was offered a business in Okanogen, Washington to continue his work through General Electric. It bloomed from selling used appliances, to working on repairs as well. Five years later, another change in the family occurred. Jim and his wife Shela moved their family to Spokane to allow for the adoption of “the light of their lives”, a young girl they had been fostering in their home. Regrettably, the adoption did not take place. The next year, the family rebounded through a move to Astoria to join the Sullivan Appliance Repair family. A year later, the Pierces bought the business and proceeded to grow in offerings as well as customer base. Again and again, though obstacles were numerous, the company moved and grew, before settling in Warrenton, where you can find them today.
J&S Appliance has not only grown, but also adapted to new expectations of customers and efficiency standards for appliances in the 21st century. The new standards agreed upon in 2010 for washers are just one of these changes. The Department of Energy estimates that over the next 30 years these newly adopted standards for residential washers will save 30 trillion gallons of water. Not to mention the energy conserved and in turn the savings passed on to consumers. With all these changes, as new appliances are introduced to the market, J&S technicians must change as well, learning and growing with the machines. “Our techs have to evolve their knowledge,” Brian Tucker, J&S Appliance’s general manager says. “Appliances are getting more and more complicated.” Plus, computers and control boards are now the way of the world. Each machine may hold two or three that work to make the appliance more efficient and capable. “In newer models there is nothing typical,” Brian elaborates. “And there are new models every year.”
So how do new technicians master the job? In contrast to other careers where classes or certifications have become the typical way a new trade or skill is acquired, appliances are still a trade learned through on the job work. Apprenticeship is used to instruct new technicians and pass on the trade. Apprenticeship originated in the Middle Ages, but remained popular through the 20th century. Students learned the skills and gleaned the knowledge necessary for their job through the expertise of a master craftsman. Jeff Fletcher, now a master craftsman, apprenticed under Paul Pierce at J&S Appliance. “Over the six months he trained me we became very close,” Jeff explained of his time traveling with Paul. “I learned a lot about myself and what I am truly capable of.” The best part of working with a master technician is the development of confidence in skills with the supervision of a professional, “He had over 40 years of experience and would watch over me in case I made a mistake.” In addition, Jeff was able to internalize skills from Paul over time, “It was difficult for me to understand how he came to conclusions about the repair so quickly.” However, over the course of the apprenticeship, Jeff started to develop his own style and way of working with machines. He says as long as the trainee understands the process and has knowledge of the appliances, the apprentice is ready to be on his or her own. With this in mind, Jeff is ready to pass on his grasp of the trade to the next hiree at J&S as the business grows.
So as computer boards break or tumblers start to rock, call in the masters. From the knock at the door, Paul, Jeff and Ken are in troubleshooting mode. They start by hearing from the client and spending time with the machine. If the repair is easy and the parts are available, they will fix it on the spot. For more complicated expensive repairs, parts often have to be ordered and a second friendly visit is required. However, with 100 to 150 parts on van and the ability to order hundreds more on short notice, Brian says the important thing is to get things fixed quickly. From vacation homes to single family households and commercial jobs, J&S knows the value of having your machines up and running.