MINEOLA - In this day of disposable everything, there are still some things worth mending.
A good vacuum cleaner is one of them, according to mechanical guru Tom Mann, who operates a small fix-it shop in Mineola.
He specializes in sales and repairs, following several decades ago in the footsteps of his father, Woody, who started Woody’s Vacuum Cleaners.
Coaxing broken contraptions back to life can be a dusty, dirty job, but someone has to do it – and Mann seems to be among the few with the know-how.
“Generally, I love what I do, if I can meet people’s needs,” he said from his shop. “It’s always varied and that’s one of the things I love about it.”
CHOICES FOR ALL
Mann started tinkering with the iconic dirt snatchers when he was a teenager, helping out in the family business that relocated years ago from the Dallas area to Mineola.
He eventually assumed ownership and carried on the tradition, retaining the same name and locale, 1239 N. Johnson St.
It’s next to impossible today to drive past the shop without having a double take – the happy yellow exterior has a tropical flair, complete with palm trees and Christmas lights.
The spotless interior is packed to the brim with various brand name machines, bags, belts and do-dahs.
A spoiled dog, Chewbacca, and a hand-me-down cat, Calla Lilly, are the official greeters and Mann’s constant companions, but there’s nary a pet hair to be found.
His specialty is vacuum cleaners, after all. “There’s maybe 600 (types),” Mann said. “Back in the day, there were about 35.”
Choices used to be limited, but today there are myriad design and color choices, to appeal to the most discriminating tastes.
Selections aside, at the end of the day, picking a vacuum comes down to personal preference and performance.
“A good vacuum is one that does what the customer wants,” Mann said. “We look at the needs. Is it lightweight, durable and affordable?”
He likes to ask plenty of questions so make sure users and appliances are evenly matched.
SWIRLING FUZZ, STATIC CHARGE
In the vacuum cleaner business, not all gadgets are created equal.
Older models dating back to the 19th century were non-electric and operated with an expanding bellows.
By the 20th century, units were powered by electricity, with new features being added all the time.
Many mid-century models are still at work; the oldest model served by the shop dates back to the 1930s.
“Over 70 percent today are bagless,” he said. “A lot of those, they’re visual … people see dirt going around.”
Customers generally select those models figuring if they can see swirling fuzz, the activity amounts to cleaner floors and carpets.
But Mann sees value in many old-school designs that feature dirt-collecting bags and less flash.
Those types feature more static charge and gobble up dirt, condensing it into a fine dust or perhaps more accurately, “tiny microscopic particles.”
Perceptions aside, there is a minimal “eeeek” factor … it’s all in the bag.
“I’ve come in contact with millions (of particles),” he teased. “I’ve worked on them ever since day one and I’m still here.”
Mann has seen a lot over the years, examining the innards of vacuum cleaners.
“I guess the strangest was a dinner fork wrapped around a brusher roller,” he said. “Something I’ve seen change is that a long time ago, it was pennies - in the last 25 years, it’s quarters and dimes.”
Repeat customer Gail Hathcoat, of Yantis, and daughter, Tammie Young, both appreciate the vacuums, but their most recent purchase was a more basic housekeeping staple: the broom.
The women each snagged a Casabella model, featuring a cheetah print handle and wide angle, aerodynamic head.
“I like it,” said Ms. Hathcoat, who works in commercial cleaning. “It’s really light weight. And when you sweep the trash, it just stays there. We were here just last week and I got one. I’m back for another one.”
Her daughter added, “We were using straw brooms … but not anymore.”