Here’s Bruce Freeman’s business plan: Buy a few hundred old stoves, washers, dryers and refrigerators, paint them, fix them and sell them.
Not exactly a recipe for getting rich, but while other small businesses in Groton are struggling or have even folded, is still open after 33 years. The owner's put two of his kids through college doing what he does.
He sells to landlords and to young people starting out, like he once was. Only now they come in saying their father once bought a washer there.
“I am so freaking old, it’s unbelievable,” said Freeman, 58.
Freeman grew up in Groton, went to Fitch High School, then started working for an appliance company that closed in 1977. From there, he went to Electric Boat and repaired welding equipment in the maintenance department for 20 years.
He met his business partner, Richard Belval, when the two were in the appliance business. Belval worked for a department store that would occasionally ask Freeman’s former company for repair work.
Belval also ultimately went to Electric Boat in the purchasing department, and the two decided to open the appliance store together in 1979. They started in the back of their current building on Fort Hill Road, in an 850-square foot section of the blue three-family house that now houses the expanded business.
“In the beginning, we would be lucky if we would take home $50 a week,” Freeman said. They’d work at Electric Boat during the day, then go to the appliance store in the evenings and on Saturdays.
Freeman was ultimately laid off at Electric Boat, and went to work at Pequot Appliances full time. His partner continued to work at EB full time, until he died of a heart attack in 2005.
“Rich was fantastic,” Freeman said. “He was instrumental in keeping (the business) together for a lot of years.”
Belval handed the paperwork end of the company, so Freeman had to take that over. The business expanded to the front of the store about 15 years ago, though it still operates in an old-fashioned way; it does not have a cash register and has only one phone line.
These days, about 75 percent of the business is sales, about 25 percent service. It perhaps doesn't hurt that Freeman stocks every obscure part his customers might hunt for; if someone wants a pump for a 1972 Whirlpool washing machine, he has one.
Freeman's wife handles the paperwork on their computer at home, and he's built a business with thousands of customers. Many are landlords, looking for a deal but with some security. Pequot offers a six-month warrantee on everything it sells.
He has three employees, including himself. One is full-time and one is part-time. The basis of their work, he explained, is making old things work again.
“We’re not salesmen,” he said. “We fix things.”