The family-owned and operated home store has continued what Bud startedWhat started out as a way to make money while going to college evolved into an iconic feature on the Central Coast landscape. Idler’s Home first began in 1954 when W. C. “Bud” Idler purchased the appliance store where he worked from his boss.
A World War II veteran, Bud moved from Montana with his wife Avis in the 1950s to study poultry science at Cal Poly. Bud purchased the store and renamed it Idler’s Appliance and the whole family worked the business.
“Everybody in the family worked there,” Jennifer idler said. “Grandma Avis, brothers and sisters, everybody. My dad’s two older sisters worked in the office and helped sales. Brothers worked in the warehouse and delivered appliances.”
Bud and Avis’ son, Don, took over the company in the ‘70s and continues to head the business with his wife Janis. Their children, Jennifer and Bryan didn’t start with intentions of joining the company. Their parents did not pressure them to work the family-owned business but respected their decisions to seek their own paths, which eventually led them back home. Jennifer works as the human resources manager and special events manager, and Bryan manages the San Luis Obispo location.
A lot has changed over the past 65 years for the company but a lot has remained the same. With the induction of chain stores coming to the San Luis Obispo County, the company found that adaptation, evolution and flexibility are essential components that keep them thriving. Initially, the focus of the business was repair but to remain contemporary, the company branched out into different indoor and outdoor home furnishing items.
During the Great Recession, the company started promoting “Scratch and Dent” appliances or “blems,” (short for blemish) that would attract customers looking to replace big-ticket items while on a budget. In 2014, Idlers dropped ‘Appliance’ and replaced it with ‘Home’ and also created a new logo. The goal of the rebranding was to demonstrate the diversity of products the business offers.
Another innovation Idlers embraced is the Culinary Throwdown event co-hosted by The Cork Dorks from The Krush 92.5 where local chefs faceoff at Idler’s locations. These events are open to the public and have been received with enthusiasm. The culinary collisions are sponsored in part by KitchenAid and Whirlpool.
“That’s been something that was really new for us,” Moss said, “having your radio personnel coming into your kitchen and then it’s also on Facebook live.”
Moss explained the complexity of the event operating on two different mediums and essentially reaching two different demographics — radio listeners and those who watch live streams on Facebook.
One thing that has not changed is the culture of the business which is based on teamwork and customer service. One way the company achieves better customer service is through education about their products. Jennifer explained that a solid relationship with companies that provide the sales items gives the idlers sales team an edge above the competition.
“Our vendors come in weekly,” Jennifer said. “That is something that Home Depot and Lowe’s don’t have. We have really close relationships with our vendors.”
“They [vendors] work with our customers too,” Marketing Director Kaeleigh Moss said. “They actually come in and they will talk with our customers and help us. You don’t see that with a lot of vendors, where they are invested in us.”
One of the biggest hurdles Jennifer said the company faces is the public’s assumption that big box stores will always beat the pricing of family-run businesses.
“That’s our hardest challenge,” Jennifer said. “People don’t know that we are the same price. People think that we are more expensive. We’re the same price, but we really focus on being better in quality when it comes to customer service.”
Although the ability to instantly compare costs online has helped to diminish the misconception, Jennifer said it is still surprising how many people believe that Idler’s products are not competitively priced.
We’d like you to go see for yourself in the store or online. Tell them we sent you and let their team do the rest. Don’t forget to tell Don we said hi!