It was the mid-1950s, and Ray Lammers had grown weary of working the wee hours every morning at the family bakery in Boonville. He and his brother, Ernie, and two friends who operated City Tire & Electric — car and truck tires and home appliances were sold along side each other in those days — decided to open a new appliance store in Columbia.
Columbia Appliance was born in 1957 on the corner of 10th Street and Broadway with the promise of always putting customer service ahead of sales. And 55 years later, current owners Royce and Susan Palmer are proud to say that mission still stands.
“There were all kinds of appliance stores back when Ray and his partners opened this store,” Royce Palmer says, “and today we have the big, box stores that are supposed to be pushing the Mom and Pop stores like us out of business. But in fact, our sales are quite good.”
Palmer says his sales and service people all have decades of experience, and customer want rely on their expertise. “We have a lot of second- and third-generation customers who know that they can trust us,” he says. “We’ve been keeping track, and 80 percent of our sales are from past customers.”
In the mid-1970’s — about a decade before Palmer joined Columbia Appliance — the store made its first move to Second Street and Broadway across the street from a Sears store that sold appliances. “Ray [Lammers] said it was the best move because Sears’ advertising would bring people to its store, but then they’d check prices and service, leave Sears and walk across the street to our store,” Palmer says. “So we were taking on the big names even back then.”
Palmer had nearly 20 years of experience in selling appliances when he went to work at Columbia Appliance. Susan Palmer came on board in 1993, and the couple became sole owners of the store two years ago. Their son, John, is the service manager and their daughter, January Rehg, is the operations manager.
Columbia Appliance moved to its current location in 1997 after outgrowing the space available downtown. With 10,368 square feet available, the store expanded its showroom and parts warehouse. “I had heard that when a store moves, some customers don’t move with them,” Palmer says. “Sales were down the first couple of months after we relocated, but then it bounced back and has been climbing ever since.”
Servicing such major brands as Whirlpool — a brand the store has carried since 1958 — Maytag, Frigidaire, Amana and Sharp, the store features one of the largest parts inventories for appliances and heating and air conditioning in central Missouri.
“We provide lots of advice in person and on the phone to do-it-yourselfers,” says store manager Rob Clarahan. “Great customer service is what it’s all about. Whether we’re selling someone a new washer and dryer and setting it up for them or helping someone find a part to repair an old refrigerator, it’s all the same to us.”
1957 – Lammers, Woods and Oswald families of Boone and Cooper counties open Columbia Appliance at 10th Street and Broadway
1976 – Toler family joins the business, and the store moves to Second Street and Broadway
1987 – Royce Palmer joins the business with 16 years of appliancee sales experience
1993 – Palmer’s wife, Susan, joins the business as co-owner
1997 – Columbia Appliance moves to its present location at 1805 Westfall Drive
2003 – Columbia Appliance purchases Stevens Appliance, a 60-year-old business in Boonville