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  Queen Vacuum & Sewing Machine Co. Red Bank, NJ

Congratulations to Queen Vacuum & Sewing Machine Co., Red Bank NJ. They are the VDTA/SDTA Dealer of the Month for November.

Queen Vacuum & Sewing Machine Co. exterior photo Queen Vacuum & Sewing interior photo
Queen Vacuum & Sewing Machine Co. employees photo

From left: Owner John Decker, Sales & Office Assistant Sarah Moschberger, Neptune City Store Manager Erika Raidma and Co-owner Rachel Decker.

by Craig Dorman,
VDTA/SDTA Contributing Writer

The history behind Queen Vacuum & Sewing Machine Co. is a great story. Originally the business operated as Graman's Vacuum & Appliance Parts Company in Red Bank, NJ. Donald Graman and his wife started Graman's, back in 1954, in a small shop on Monmouth Street in Red Bank, NJ. In 1964 the family moved the business to their current location at 156 Monmouth Street. After serving in the Air Force their eldest son, Eugene, began working at the store full time and learning the trade.

Donald and Gene served their community together for decades. With innovative self-designed test equipment, talent and experience, they were able to fix a variety of vacuum cleaners and small home appliances.

Graman's offered a variety of quality machines, bags, belts and accessories from a neat, well-stocked showroom located in a popular, central New Jersey location. With knowledge and professionalism they assisted their customers in finding the perfect vacuum for their unique needs. In 1979, Gene took over his father's business, keeping up -- if not improving -- the same high standards of business excellence.

In 1995, John P. Decker joined his life-long neighborhood friend, "Uncle" Gene, at the vac store as extra help. Having a natural talent for mechanics and interaction with customers, John quickly picked up the workings of the business. Along with Gene, John soon became a virtual encyclopedia on the history, workings, and parts for almost all makes and models of vacuum cleaners! But in 1998, John left Graman's to pursue the automotive field, where he eventually worked as an auto technician for such luxury car lines as Cadillac, Volvo, BMW, Jaguar and Audi.

Gene continued with his business until 2002, when he decided it was time to retire. Gene knew of only one person he trusted to continue the business his family began. That person was John. In January of 2003, John and his wife, Rachel, took over Graman's. Once again, it became a little "Mom & Pop" store, reminiscent of yesteryear...

The store was graced with a feminine touch once Rachel joined full-time in 2006. Utilizing her skills in office management, marketing and graphic design, she helped take the business to the next level and helped John develop a fresh new brand for their store. With a snazzy website, new business cards and some updated signage, "Queen Vacuum & Sewing Machine Company" was introduced! The regal designation and brush-script logo evoke a 1950's vibe -- their subtle way of updating and modernizing the store, without losing the old-fashioned, established feel it had earned.

In 2011, the Queen "Empire" expanded to two locations, after taking over "Monmouth Vacuum & Sewing" of Neptune City. With that, their team grew to include Erika (N.C. Manager,) Sarah and Adam.

Rachel shared, "Our Red Bank store location really stands out among the fellow businesses in town as one of the few 'practical' establishments. Our cool, little town is saturated with banks, restaurants, cupcake shops, luxury clothing/jewelry boutiques and the like. A faint reminder of the Red Bank of a century ago, our shop is one of less than a dozen stores (out of several hundred) where folks can buy practical household items and get things repaired!"

Noting other ways in which their store is unique, Rachel said, "It's unusual for such YOUNG people to own and operate a 'dinosaur' business such as a vacuum store – and even more so that we've lasted so long! This is our 10th year! A husband and wife team, we are one of the few real mom and pop shops that exist these days."

Another, perhaps more striking feature of their shop is how nice and happy the owners and staff are while working!

Rachel explained, "We understand that small service shops are marred by the stigma of grouchy old men. Customers state this all of the time. Flattered as we are to receive such a beautiful compliment, it makes us a little sad. It only means that everywhere else in the world is grumpy and depressing."

From a marketing standpoint, the number one draw to Queen Vacuum & Sewing is the collective number of Dealer Locators they are associated with. They are authorized for numerous brands, so the manufacturer referrals for repairs, warranty and sales are the primary way they get new customers in their doors. Aside from all that and regular word of mouth, they have worked hard on their online and social media presence.

"This helps us bring in the more inquisitive demographic!" said Rachel. "Our Web site is really unique on its own and represents our personality, but it also ties together our YouTube channel, Facebook page, Pinterest pages as well as other downloadable resources we've created. Tied in heavily on our advice web page are the archives to our self-produced free e-newsletter. These are incredibly unique, informative and humorous articles that tie the whole 'digital package' together in a fun, personal way. These aspects of our marketing are what help keep customers coming back and convert them from repair customers to new vacuum sale customers."

Offering advice for other small business owners, Rachel shared some tips for doing business. She said, "Be HONEST. You have to be honest with customers, even if it may lose or reduce a sale. It's not worth the bad karma or night's sleep to be a pushy swindler. Our job is to provide the customer exactly what they want and need to take care of their home – no less but no more."

Next, she said to own what you sell. "We genuinely love Miele vacuums and we use them at home," said Rachel. "We can give more honest, real-life advice and tips when helping our customers choose which one to buy, and how to get the most out of them in their own homes. We've even shot YouTube videos using our own vacuum at home to demonstrate techniques to our customers. The passion we have is clear to our customers and it's contagious!"

And finally, Rachel recommends getting plenty of rest. Indeed it is hard to "punch-out" when you own your own business, but it's vital to take time to step away to refresh yourself physically and mentally. Rachel said, "Our Saturdays are sacred. Our shops are closed and our good customers are happy for us. It is our day to rest and we give our team the chance to do the same. Retirement is not a guarantee, so be sure to take a small amount of quality time every week to relax, appreciate your blessings and enjoy those whom you love. We have faith that even though we are missing the biggest retail day, we will be blessed with the revenue we need to be successful and have the quality of life we desire."

You can visit Queen Vacuum & Sewing Machine Co. online at www.queenvacuum.com.

Reprinted from SQE Professional, November 2013