Carolyn and Richard Ferguson

Carolyn and Richard Ferguson have owned and operated Astoria Vacuums for more than 35 years. Richard often handles the repairs while Carolyn takes calls and places orders for parts.

When did you first open?

Carolyn: “We’ve been here about 35 years.”

Were you always here at 1193 Marine Drive?

Carolyn: “We were up in Uniontown for about a year.”

What’s the most common repair?

Richard: “Belts.”

Carolyn: “Some vacuums are user friendly and some are a pain to just change the belt.”

How do you diagnose what’s wrong with a vacuum?

Richard: “We plug it in and see. There’s a different smell if it’s electrical or burnt rubber if it’s a belt.

What accounts for a majority of your business repair or sales?

Carolyn: “Repair is probably 75 percent. We used to have more sales, but that was before Costco, Fred Meyer and Home Depot. They each took a chunk.”

Vacuum repair

Replacing rubber belts and unclogging pine needles are common fixes at Astoria Vacuums, where 75 percent of the business comes from repairs.

How often should people have a tune up for their vacuum?

Carolyn: “There’s no set time, just depends how much use it gets.”

What does a tune up entail?

Carolyn: “We clean it out and put a new belt on, that kind of stuff.”

How long do belts typically last?

Carolyn: “They say you’re supposed to replace them every six months, but most don’t bother until they break.”

Since opening some 35 years ago, how has the industry changed?

Carolyn: “Vacuums are always changing, there’s always something new on the block.”

Competition

The arrival of Costco, Home Depot and Fred Meyer — all of which also sell vacuums — has gradually eroded the sales margins for Astoria Vacuums, who now almost exclusively rely on repairs. “It’s just one of those trades that seem to disappear,” said Richard Ferguson.

Are you seeing more robotic vacuums like the Roomba?

Carolyn: “No, we haven’t had any of those in for repair yet.”

Are most people are still using traditional upright vacuums?

Carolyn: “About 75 percent of people still use uprights. The other 25 percent use the canisters.”

What’s the difference between a canister and an upright vacuum? Are there benefits to each?

Carolyn: “It just depends what you need. If you have wall-to-wall carpet, you probably need an upright. If you have more wood floors and area rugs, you can get by with a canister.”

What’s the most common mistake people make with their vacuums?

Carolyn: “They suck up stuff they shouldn’t, like water.”

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever pulled out of a vacuum?

Richard: “A mouse.”

What’s the most labor intensive or tedious repair?

Richard: “Changing the bearings.”

Carolyn: “The restaurant and commercial vacuums, because they’re just packed full of grease.”

Is there seasonality to your business?

Carolyn: “Yes, especially around the holidays — everybody clogs their vacuum with pine needles.”

What part do you enjoy the most?

Richard: “Quitting time (Ha-ha).”

Carolyn: “The people. We’ve had a lot of the same customers coming through the years.”

Is there any advice you would offer to new business owners?

Carolyn: “Budget. If you have a month where business is great, don’t run out and buy a bunch of stuff, because the next month may be totally dead.”

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