Customers calling Idler’s Appliance might have noticed something different about the 60-year-old business recently: namely, a name change.
“We answer all the phones ‘Idler’s Home’ instead of Idler’s Appliance now,” said owner Don Idler, 63, following the company’s decision this month to change the local company’s name to better reflect its business today.
“Idler’s Appliance is embedded in people’s minds in this county. We’ve been promoting the appliance brand for many years, but we do so much more,” Idler said. “That’s what the new name, Idler’s Home, is about.”
Idler’s, which has two locations in San Luis Obispo County, has slowly branched out from just selling appliances, Idler said, adding in kitchen design and cabinetry, bedding and outdoor departments over the past few years in an effort to diversify.
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In 2006, when he moved the Paso Robles store to its current site near the Target shopping center, Idler created kitchen design and outdoor living departments. Then in 2010, he added a stand-alone sleep center next to the San Luis Obispo location, followed a year later by a kitchen design center in the San Luis Obispo store.
Although appliances still represent most of the company’s sales — about 70 percent — and are expected to remain dominant, Idler said, the three “home” departments each now generate about 30 percent of sales. They’re expected to increase to a total of 40 percent within a few years, he added.
To reflect its new name, Idler’s Home also designed a new logo, and will spend the next six months updating signage at the stores and on the 20 delivery trucks they use countywide, Idler said.
The name and logo change comes at a historic time for the company. Founded in 1954 by Don Idler’s father, W.C. “Bud” Idler, the company has had a 60-year history with the local community, Don Idler said.
After being injured parachuting out of a plane in World War II, Bud Idler moved his family from Montana to San Luis Obispo in the early 1950s to study poultry science at Cal Poly. While going to school, Bud Idler worked at an appliance store, fixing washers and dryers.
Soon after he graduated, Bud Idler had the opportunity to buy the store and rename it, and Idler’s Appliance became a family business, with Don’s mother, sisters and brothers all helping out in the store.
Over the next 50 years, Idler’s would expand into three locations throughout the county (the Atascadero store has since closed), and at its height would employ about 90 workers.
The business faced some hard times once the recession hit in 2008, Idler said. They temporarily stopped filling job vacancies as employees left, until the number of workers fell to about 60 people, he said. It now employs 68.
Idler said sales and revenues have still not rebounded to what they were in 2007 — a record high for Idler’s — though this year has seen about 1 percent growth over the previous year. He declined to disclose annual revenue or profit for the privately held company.
With the company showing signs of improvement, Idler said he now hopes to move into the Santa Maria market and already has a team picked out to manage the new store, but he is “waiting for the right moment” before taking the final step.
“Everything has to line up right,” Idler said. “The economy is a little too weird right now.”
But even if the company expands out of the county, Idler said it will always keep its “small-town service” mentality.
“Sometimes we want to be a little appliance store, because it’s easier, but we can’t do that now,” Idler said. “Our mentality is to not lose our hometown, family focus, and our service. My dad started the company with the motto, ‘the house that service built,’ and we don’t want to lose that.”