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From aerospace to vacuums no big leap

When Chris Feigl came to Charlotte from California in 1988, he had a career in the aerospace industry. Twelve years later, that company was bought out by a New York company.
“I was confronted with a decision to move for a third time but I fell in love with the Carolinas,” said Feigl. “I had roots in the area and didn`t want to leave.”
His age also played a factor in his decision not to move or seek employment in the aerospace industry.
“There were limited jobs in the aerospace industry for guys who were 50,” he said.
He decided to fall back on what he was doing in his spare time, repairing vacuums for his first wife`s cleaning service.
“I knew all of the vacuum store owners in the area from Gastonia to Lincolnton and everywhere in-between. This was a hobby of mine,” said Feigl.
He used to shop at All Brand Vacuums as a customer when the store was owned by Mike Crivac and located in Gastonia.
One day, while talking to Crivac about his job situation, Feigl learned Crivac wanted to sell the store.
Feigl said that his friend was frustrated because everyone who wanted to purchase his store wanted to move the location, which Crivac didn`t want happening, a position he later altered; he later changed his mind, according to employee Wanda Murphy.
“When I came to work for Mr. Crivac around 1995, he wanted to move the store from Gastonia to Denver,” she said.
That wasn’t the only issue Feigl had to contend with when he purchased the store in 2003.
“When I bought the store, I inherited the mindset of the previous owner,” he said. “I believed there were only two true vacuum brands, Kirby and Panasonic.”
Utilizing the research component of his aerospace background, he began an extensive research project that concluded after one year. The result of his research led him to begin carrying German-manufactured Meile vacuums.
“I chose Meile because dollar for dollar, they’re the best value on the market today,” said Feigl. “Meile is the biggest family-owned business in the world, but only did around $284 million in business in the U.S. last year.”
He added that there are five main reasons why people buy vacuums — weight, power, cleaning ability, user friendliness and quietness.
“It depends on the person and need as to what’s a top priority for a vacuum cleaner,” said Feigl.
For example, Amy Simmons, owner of Grace Preschool in Denver, uses two vacuums for three classrooms at her preschool.
“Chris has repaired vacuums for me before. I don’t have to wander around one of those big box stores because I can ask him a question and he can give me an answer,” she said.
With two new big box stores on the horizon, Feigl said he isn`t worried about the impending competition.
“They sell vacuums priced from $50 to $200 that will only last a few years,” he said. “I`m a warranty dealer for those kind of vacuums, but I don`t sell those kind of vacuums.”
The vacuums that Feigl sells are moderate to high end, usually between $200 and $2,000.
He said he “turns the tables” and actually works to take competition away from Wal-Mart and Lowe’s.
“I actually go to the big boxes and give them my card because I am a warranty dealer. It’s also because I sell the bags for their vacuums,” he said. “The big boxes have to call the manufacturers to find where their closest warranty station is and that’s me.”
The resulting warranty call opens the door of opportunity for Feigl.
“It`s a way to get face-time with potential customers and gives me an opportunity to educate customers,” said Feigl.

All Brand Vacuums is located in the 16 Center shopping center across from LeeBoy on N.C. 16 in Denver. Hours are 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call (704) 489-1508.
by Jon Mayhew

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