They are old veterans, standing at attention.
Proud. Portly. Stoic.
One holds an American flag.
The brigade of wringer washers stand watch in the window of Budget Appliance Service on Broadway near 19th Street.
What’s up with that?
“They look like they run, but they’re a dead wringer,” jokes worker Dale Frisk.
He’s like a stand-up comedian, but instead of tables he’s surrounded by a showroom of used appliances. He hands out sticks of gum as a “free appetizer.”
His brother-in-law, Rich Groshong, has owned the Everett shop for 24 years, which just might be the median age of dryers in the crowd.
The store is a repository of those boxy white labor-savers, with parts for everything made in the last century. To round out the theme are displays of vintage signs, retro lunchboxes and Americana collectibles.
“People come in and they kind of assume that it’s an antique store,” Groshong said. “And they’ll say, ‘How much for that?’?”
The stuff that doesn’t plug in isn’t for sale. It’s the decor.
Hundreds of squiggly oven heating elements hang from the ceiling like something you might see in a modern art museum. For $20, you can hang one on your wall or bring a dead oven back to life.
The store sits between a barber shop and an upholstery shop, across from a pawn shop and down the street from a pot shop. A something-for-everybody stretch of Broadway.
Customers only see the tip of the appliance iceberg. In back is the “boneyard,” a sacred ground for dozens of washers and dryers awaiting redemption.
“Most get reconditioned and resold,” Groshong said. “It looks rough right now. You’d be surprised how I can transform one of these into an appliance that looks brand new.”
It helps save the planet and a few bucks. “We cater to lower-income people who can’t afford to buy new stuff,” he said. “A lot of times if I sell one I’ll take another in return.”
The stockroom is a hoarder’s dream of knobs, tools, grills, grates, hoses, dryer belts and oven racks galore.
“It doesn’t take long to build up a collection like this,” Groshong said.
Need a touch-up on that ’70s avocado-green or harvest-gold beauty? No problem, there are cans of spray paint to match.
Shoppers leave with more than a stick of chewing gum.
“They always have what you’re looking for,” said Mark Williams, who runs an online used appliance parts business from his Lake Stevens home.
On a recent day he needed burners for a 1940s Frigidaire range. Groshong disappeared into the back for a minute and returned with the goods.
“How about $30 apiece for the big ones and $20 apiece for the small?” he asked Williams. “Can you make some money off that?”
Some pieces get totally new purposes.
Frisk tells about the guy who came in for a refrigerator door to use, somehow, as a sidecar for a motorcycle. Another customer made a stereo cabinet from an old fridge.
Many wringers wind up in the garden as planters or go back to their original task of washing clothes. “I’ve sold a lot over the years,” Groshong said. “Typically a Maytag.”
The 200-pound time capsules evoke memories, good and bad.
“You know, if I had a nickel for every time someone told us how they got a finger or hand mangled in the wringer,” Frisk said.
In the window is a gas-powered Maytag that back in the day came with optional accessories, such as a meat-grinder that attached to the wringer’s spindle. For real. It was dubbed the farm woman’s best friend, that is, until she caught her hair in it.
What’s the weirdest thing in the shop?
Frisk himself, for sure.
A close second is the 1920s GE refrigerator with the round top that looks like an icebox robot.
It doesn’t work. It might have two decades ago when Groshong bought it. He doesn’t remember.
“A lot of people have wanted to buy it but I kept saying ‘No. No. No. I don’t want to sell it,’” he said. “And now I do.”
For $75, and a couple of strong helpers, you can take it home.
Groshong is also now willing to part with the old soldiers in the window. “Hopefully, they find good homes,” he said.
— Andrea Brown (@reporterbrown) March 29, 2016