Spencer’s Appliances at 7115 Glisan Street NE will permanently close its doors on February 1st after 40 years of serving the community. The owner of the new and used equipment store plans to retire and lease the three commercial buildings on NE Glisan Street to the next generation of businesses. Several employees have started a new business and will open their equipment repair business later this year.
Eugene Spencer founded Spencer’s Appliances with his son in the early 1980’s after retiring from the military as a refrigeration specialist. “I started in 82 with my father Eugene. He was doing things outside of his home because he retired from the Navy, and he just started tinkering with them to keep himself busy,” recalled John Spencer. “I worked at a seed mill in Tangent, OR. I went to college for a few years and college wasn’t for me. Then my dad called me and said you want a job? Come and work for me.”
Ben Schafer, the owner of Cash and Carry Appliances in NE Glisan, wanted to move his 30-year-old business to SE Hawthorne so the Spencers could open a store in an established location. “There was already a home appliance store here, and the guy wanted to move to a bigger building. So we bought this building,” explained John Spencer. “This was a good location and on the first day people would come in and buy a device from us because it used to be a device store.”
This early success gave the Spencer’s confidence, particularly John who was new to the business at 21. “I remember saying, ‘Holy shit,’ there are people here buying stuff. I didn’t know anything, and then we started repairing and selling equipment. We ended up getting a GE dealer. It just took off from there.” John Spencer said. After the company had grown together, the father-son team hired an employee. “It got busier, slowly but surely, and then we hired Wes.” Wes Swisher was also retired from the Navy and knew Eugene Spencer. According to John Spencer, Wes was instrumental in the growth of Spencer’s Appliances. The company expanded year after year and eventually employed 20 people.
By 1984 the electronics store had outgrown the original storefront at 7123 NE Glisan so they built the current showroom next door. In 2000, the company completed a new warehouse building on the corner of NE 71st Avenue and Glisan Street. The two newer buildings house apartments on a second floor above the commercial areas, creating six residential units. The Spencers eventually bought the land one block east and built Glisan Plaza at 7201 NE Glisan Street.
Twenty years ago, Eugene Spencer retired from the appliance business, leaving John in charge. “He was a great boss. We worked six days a week for 20 years and then he retired,” recalls John Spencer. In 2012, Wes Swisher also retired. Both are healthy and enjoying their free time. Around the time Swisher left, John Spencer was worried about Glisan Street. Car thieves have repeatedly stolen his company vehicles, and villains often vandalized the buildings. In 2019, a driver collided with his business and fled the scene. John Spencer is excited about the new families that have moved into the neighborhood and the business that is taking root around his shop, but it’s disappointing to see the negative changes on his street. “I think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen, the crime you see walking up and down the street.” said Spencer. The postponement of public safety and labor issues due to the pandemic have encouraged John Spencer to retire from the business. After searching for a buyer interested in running the business for seven months, he and his family decided it was better to close the business.
John Spencer will miss the daily interactions that have made his career so enjoyable. “It’s all about the people. I just like meeting neighbors and talking to people. It was my social time. You go into people’s homes and learn things from their life experiences. 90% of the people you deal with are just beautiful, down-to-earth people.” Spencer will also miss solving problems for clients. He prides himself on solving someone’s annoying device problem and seeing the relief it brings to people.
John Spencer is pleased with the business his family built in Montavilla and the impact it has had on the lives of those who work there. “It supported my family and I think I created a lot of jobs. I have ex-employees who still do equipment stuff. There are people who found a career because one day they walked in the door looking for a job,” Spencer explained. “It was a wild ride.”
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