On October 1, 1917, John E. Kieffer, Sr. founded a tire store, Girard Rubber Co. at 1123 Girard Avenue in Philadelphia. In the late 1920’s, the business began selling a few appliances: the RCA and Philco Battery Crystal Radio sets, the Grono & Crosley refrigerator, and the Royal electric vacuum cleaner. These appliances, considered innovations at the time, were the predecessor of what was to become the standard Kieffer’s Appliances concept – the newest products at the best prices.
In 1924, John E. Kieffer opened a second location at 4666 North 15th Street, which operated as a separate store until 1926, when the Girard Avenue store closed and moved to 15th street.
A Family Affair
John E. Kieffer, Sr.’s two sons, John and Larry, grew up in the business using mountains of tires as a playground. By age 10, each of the boys was working part-time in the store, changing and repairing tires. In 1945, after an honorable discharge from the navy, Larry joined the business full-time. In 1946, John did the same. The store became known as John E. Kieffer & Sons.
Appliances Become the Focus
Some of the appliances that Kieffer’s sold in the early days included ice boxes, where cold air came from the ice stored above the food compartment, gas powered refrigerators, wringer washers, manglers, and gas car heaters run off the carburetor producing instant heat.
In the early 1940’s, John E. Kieffer’s sold the first air conditioners as well as the first TV’s. Those early TV’s boasted a 10” screen housed in a 40” case, costing $800 and, of course, were black and white. The first electric refrigerator, also introduced in the 40’s, was only 10 cubic feet, manual defrost and cost $600.
By the start of the 1950’s, appliance sales were growing while tire repair and tire sales were declining. By 1965, tire repair only accounted for approximately twenty percent of sales and so was closed; however, John E. Kieffer and Sons continued to sell tires until 1984.
With the tire business stagnant and the demand for household appliances steadily increasing, Larry Kieffer opened the Lansdale store on Sumneytown Pike in 1963. The new Lansdale store had the space to display many state-of-the-art appliances and became known throughout the region as “the place to go” to see new appliances.
Enjoying success in their new location, John E. Kieffer & Sons had a big influence in the surrounding community; sponsoring church, hospitals and medical corps fundraisers on its grounds, holiday pet shows, art shows and Boy Scout Jamborees. It was during a Boy Scout jamboree that Larry paid $200 for a “truck-load” of watermelons, intending to give a watermelon to all those who made an appliance purchase during the festivities. When the “truck-load” arrived, there were more than 500 melons! Overwhelmed with melons, the scouts set up a free melon stand, had melon eating contests, gave one to everyone who walked near the store, and still had melons left over.
By 1977, the store in Philadelphia was shut down as the location was no longer suited for the business and John moved to the Lansdale showroom to join his brother Larry.
A Family Tradition Continues
Like his father, John E. Kieffer, Larry encouraged his five children to work in the store. His oldest, John, at age 10, helped lay the tile and install the wiring and plumbing in the Lansdale showroom. He drove a delivery truck throughout high school and college to help fund his education; briefly joining his father in the business after graduation to learn the ropes.
In January of 1987, John and his wife Brenda bought the business from Larry and renamed it Kieffer’s Appliances. John was now the third generation to take the reigns. Larry’s brother John retired and Larry stayed to lend Brenda and John his 40+ years of expertise.
20 Years Later, Ever Progressing
October 2007 marked the beginning of the store’s 90th year, making it one of the oldest businesses in Lansdale. Still family owned and now into the fourth generation of Kieffers, it is Kieffer’s Appliances mission to bring professional service, support, and a broad product selection to an industry dominated by large, impersonal retail chains. Kieffer’s Appliances has become the largest independent appliance dealer in the tri-state area featuring over 60 brands of appliances in a 14,000 square foot “Super” Showroom. 2007 was also the year that Jace Kieffer, John’s son, began working full-time with the company further cementing Kieffer’s Appliances family tradition.
2007 was not over as work was completed on the 2,000 sq. ft. Subzero-Wolf Living Kitchen. The Sub-Zero and Wolf Living Kitchen at Kieffer’s Appliances features nearly the entire Sub-Zero and Wolf product line including dual-fuel ranges, wall ovens, hoods, refrigerators, wine units, and more. Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances are displayed in real-life kitchen vignettes providing inspiration for the ultimate dream kitchen.
Present and Future
Ever striving to display the latest and greatest appliances, an additional 2,400 square feet of showroom space was designed and completed in the spring of 2012. An extensive showing of Electrolux, Kitchenaid, GE Profile, Viking D3, GE Cafe, Bertazzoni, Capital, and Liebherr products are displayed in real-life applications.
As we approach our 100th year anniversary, our decades of success would not be possible without our biggest asset you, the customer. We thank you for the years of loyalty and look forward to serving you for many years to come. Help us write the next chapter in Kieffer’s Appliances history!