Vacuum Repair Shop: A Vanishing Trade, "Along the Way"

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - If vacuum repair shops were animals, they might very well be on the endangered species list.

Once, a common sight, they are fading fast from the American landscape.

In this story we visit an aging survivor, a Rapid City shop that is in many towns, a relic of the past.

An old weathered sign hangs above the door at 1911 West Main Street, an 'Open' sign lights up the window. It is in a sense, a nature preserve, for traditional high quality vacuum's to be sold and repaired. The shop is named Carroll's Appliance.

"But we get a lot of customers down from even where I'm from, Bowman, Raym, Buffalo, South Dakota. We get them in from Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota, all over," says Jerry Beckman, co-owner of the business.

It is a refuge for vacuums in need of care with no place else to go.

"Cuz there's a big radius that doesn't have any vacuum stores, or repairs in them," Beckman continues.

While there is a shortage of repair shops, there is no shortage of high quality, long lasting, vacuums in need of repair.

"We're overwhelmed with customers, a lot of times you can't even hardly get in the front door of the shop becasue we go so many machines that come in here and lined up," Jerry Beckman explains.

Jerry has worked at the shop for more than 50 years. He and his wife Mary have actually owned it since 1995. The shop is named after Scott Carroll, a former owner.

"Everybody thought I was Carroll for years because I was always in here running it. They'd always call me Carroll and I just let it go because that's the name of the business," Jerry says.

These days customers know, his name is Jerry. And while he fixes small appliances like mixers and toasters, that's not his major business.

"90 percent of our business is vacuum cleaner repair," Jerry continues.

Jerry and Mary Beckman have been married since 1966, when she was 18 and he was 20. In July they will have been married 52 years. As it turns out, the vacuum business has been good to them.

Mary Beckman is the co-owner Carroll's Appliance.
"The business of them has paid for all of our lives. Our cars, our home, our living. We've been blessed all the way along with it," Mary says.

"She does the bookkeeping and the paperwork and pays the bills and keeps everything going in the office. I do all the repair," Jerry explains.

This is a place not only full of vacuums, and family, but also full of faith.

" We wanna show the love of Jesus Christ shining out from us to other people and you know treat people the way they want to to be treated and the way we want to be treated," Jerry says.

Jerry works six days a week, sometimes 7, and doesn't plan on quitting anytime soon.
"I'm gonna try to keep doing it till I'm 95. I'm 72 now," he says.

Mary will turn 70 this summer. She started working with her husband Jerry here at the shop more than 20 years ago. We wondered what it was like to work with her husband.

"Most fun I've ever had in my life. We hunt. We fish. We work together. Our lives are just one big blast," she says.

As repair shops dwindle away, this place stands strong, prospering, and healthy. This shop is a survivor in a business, that if it were an animal, might well be on the endangered species list."

Carroll's has been at it's current location on West Main for more than 4 decades.

Jerry and his wife are the 4th owners of Carroll's Appliance.

There is one other vacuum repair shop in town. That one is owned by their son.

If you've met someone cool "Along the Way" please call us or e-mail me at stevel@blackhillsfox.com to let us know.