By Ellen Fix
The first thing you notice when you walk through the door of Sewell Appliance Sales and Service Co. is the gleam. It’s the gleam of aisle upon aisle of glamorously upscale cooktops, ovens, warming drawers and other kitchen necessities and – you can’t help but be struck by it – the sparkle of 100 percent stainless steel. Oh, and some beautiful examples of top-of-the-line integrated cabinetry, too.
“That’s all we sell,” explains Andy Sewell, who helps run the business along with his brother Stan and his dad Charles, who founded the company 45 years ago. “In 1998, our emphasis began to change dramatically. We are really focused on homes in this area that need upgraded kitchens. About 75 percent of our business is remodeling; the rest is replacement and new construction. We work with high-end builders, decorators and contract installers, mostly in east Cobb, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. So we’ve narrowed our inventory down to what’s popular.”
Sewell Appliances is allegedly the oldest continuous business in operation in Sandy Springs. Says Charles, “Repeat business has been the key to our success. We have focused on giving the community the service that they have required. And we like to treat people like we’d want to be treated. Honesty has served us well.”
Some regular accounts include Bill Grant Homes, Bildon Construction and Capstone Builders, among others. Most residences are in the multimillion-dollar range, some with two or three kitchens and often outdoor kitchens, the latest rave in new homes in temperate climes. Over the years the business has built a reputation among prestigious clients such as Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, Ted Turner, Johnny Isakson, Babyface, Dion Sanders, Tree Rollins and others.
Adds Andy, “What’s really popular is magnetic induction stovetops. The top doesn’t ever get really hot, and there is no open flame, so it’s an added safety feature. They start at around $3,000, but then you have to get the special magnetic cookware for it, which is one reason why it’s not as popular as it could be.”
Apparently the housing slump hasn’t hit Sewell Appliances. And it probably never will. Explains Andy, “Since we do service and a lot of replacement business, we’ll be able to stay busy and keep going strong. We’ve never laid anyone off, but we run a lean ship. And we have a lot of orders coming in next week.”
Charles, who was raised a half-mile from the store location at Hildebrand Shopping Center, remembers when Sandy Springs had “two grocery stores and a pump service.
I remember when they paved Lake Forrest Drive. Back then service calls started at $7.50.”
The business started as the Tim Ovbey Service Co. which Charles bought from Tim Ovbey. He shared an office with Sandy Springs Heating, next to Mac’s Barber Shop and the Char-House Restaurant. All he had was a desk and a telephone. A few years later he added a sales component. When Charles’ sons were very young, they would ride in the truck with their dad when he’d both deliver and install appliances. They learned the ropes hands-on, and as they got older they had summer jobs with the company.
But how does a comparatively small, 8,000-square-foot store compete with the larger inventory in places like Home Expo, Brandsmart, Lowe’s and the big-box stores? Says Andy, “Some of these place have tons on display, but I think that’s confusing to people. The big-box stores have brainwashed people with their advertising, but often it’s bait and switch. Yet we sell some of those same items cheaper every day.
“I think everyone deserves builder cost; we don’t play the sales games. We have one price; decorators get the same price as individuals. Otherwise it’s too complicated. I mean, everyone knows a designer or a real estate agent; you might as well get the price down to where it should be. Besides, at Sewell, you really do pay less plus you get service to go with it.”
Adds Charles, “You get a full factory warranty with our units, and if something should go wrong, there’s someone here to answer the phone and solve the problem. We service everything we sell. And our installers know how to measure correctly. You may come up with a wish list but the question is, will it work? We send someone out to make it work. We make it seamless.”
Adds son Stan, “We’re not perfect, but we make it right at the end of the day.” Andy reiterates, “We have a relationship with our customers. We expect to see you down the road for your next house and the one after that. We are already seeing generational customers. I promise you we’ll be here for you in two years when you decide to upgrade or get a repair.”
Sewell will indeed be here – but in expanded and more elegant quarters. A year from now, it plans to nearly triple its showroom to 18,000 square feet in a new free-standing location off Trowbridge Road across from Tom Jumper Service Center. It will have Georgia’s first Wolf Living Kitchen, and on display will be every model in the Sub-Zero and Wolf lines. It will be designed as a store-within-a-store, with custom lighting, flooring and ceilings.
Sewell is destined to shine brightly as a Sandy Springs mainstay for years to come.