Del. appliance store has local and global outreach

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News,Business

LEWES, Del. (AP) — Among the myriad of modern appliances in Gary Chorman's showroom, it was a 1928 Maytag butter churn and washing machine combo that brought a customer to near tears.

"My grandmother had that in her old kitchen," said Fenwick Island resident Shirley Hollie. "The fridge and washing machine were like new things to her."

With about three left in the world, the butter churn meets washer is one dual-use system customers won't see on most retail shelves today. But customers walking into Millman's Appliances in Lewes are often in for a pleasant surprise or trip down memory lane while they're browsing for a new stove.

Chorman has a few of these old gems tucked away in his showroom, a cozy country store building with old wooden floors and a sleek new copper ceiling. Like the Maytag machine, most of the other vintage appliances are gifts from loyal customers.

In the back of the store, he showed off a 1947 Frigidaire with pride. A Bethany Beach customer held the refrigerator, originally a wedding gift to his wife, in his barn for 20 years before he gave it to the appliance store.

"We go way back in the community," Chorman said. "Obviously our customers do as well."

Millman's has had its roots in southern Delaware since 1969 and Chorman took over the flagship store on Coastal Highway in Rehoboth Beach in 2003. Last year, he added the store's second location on Lewes Georgetown Highway, next to Steele's Gun Shop, creating what he calls a "his and her" shopping dynamic.

Even with its more remote location, Millman's has kept its heart in the community. The stacks of thank-you notes for donations of up-cycled appliances attest to the store's philanthropic commitment. After Chorman first realized his used appliances were just one or two parts away from new use, he began refurbishing them for battered women's shelters, veterans and family who have suffered house fires.

"There are people out there making a decision between medicine and food," he said. "When you throw in an appliance breakdown, what are they supposed to do?"

Chorman may be known as a philanthropist in the community, but in the business world he is known as a born salesman. He began working for Millman's original owner at age 14 and fell in love with retail. Though he pursued several careers before returning to the appliance store in 2003, his entrepreneurial spirit never waned.

"I have found customer service is pinnacle," he said. "We have the resources to back up our sales."

With its homespun appliance store charm and customer service, Millman's also sells appliances from Italy, Switzerland and Germany. For those looking for cutting-edge appliances, Chorman recommends European makers. The U.S. is behind many of the newest developments, such as convection technology which was developed almost two decades ago.

"We are that hometown appliance store," he said. "But we have a global outreach."

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Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/

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