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Fletcher’s Appliance Store in Nashua turns 90, names new general manager

Friday, May 2, 2014

By IRENE LABOMBARDE

Staff Writer

BROOKLINE – David Pastor, of Brookline, is the second generation of his family to own and operate Fletcher’s Appliance Store on Route 101A in Nashua, now celebrating its 90th year in business.

When he decided to retire from day-to-day operations last fall, he handed over the reins to longtime sales manager Jeff Coon, also of Brookline, who was promoted to the position of general manager. Pastor remains as owner and president.

Pastor is confident that business will continue as usual with Coon running the show. After all, Coon has been an employee for 22 years and has lots of experience matching the latest products with customer needs.

“I’m proud of the fact that the average tenure of my employees is more than 10 years,” Pastor said. “We have one who just passed the 30-year mark. We have very loyal employees, very loyal customers and are very loyal to the community.”

Humble beginnings downtown

Fletcher’s has experienced success since its beginnings in downtown Nashua. Pearley and Edith Fletcher opened the appliance store in 1924, shortly after the self-contained electric refrigerator was introduced by Frigidaire. That modern convenience forever changed how perishable food was bought and stored, and the business took off.

Pastor’s father, Bernard Pastor, served in the Navy with Pearley Fletcher, working as a refrigerator technician aboard the ship. Upon returning to the Nashua area after World War II, Bernie worked at Fletcher’s as an appliance repairman. By then, the store had expanded to a larger space at the corner of Main and West Hollis streets.

When the Fletchers retired in 1953, they sold the store to Bernie, who kept the familiar name and ran the business until his retirement in 1988, when son, David, took over. That also was a natural succession, since David had been working there since the age of 14, when he was hired to sweep floors and assist with deliveries. David left Nashua to attend the University of Colorado in Boulder, and was headed toward majoring in math when he switched direction.

“It wasn’t until I was in college that we talked about whether I’d take over the business when my dad retired,” said David Pastor. “I realized the economics of being a teacher, and decided owning my own business would be a better path.”

He majored in marketing, with a minor in small business management, and returned to Nashua and Fletcher’s, where he has been ever since. He moved the store to its current site on Route 101A in 1996.

He and his wife, Linda, have three children, all adults with successful careers, but none of them wanted to take over the family business.

“The kids all worked in here but they went on their own path,” he said. “I made them do something else before even considering it. In hindsight, my one regret is that I never went out into the real business world to do something else.”

Service the key to longevity

During Fletcher’s 90 years of operation, numerous competitors have come and gone. There are some, like Grant’s and Montgomery Ward, which might be remembered only by people who had music on vinyl. Others, including Lechmere, Builders’ Square, Highland Superstore and Fretter, may be familiar to those who still have CDs in a crate somewhere. And Circuit City bid the area adieu during the era of the MP3.

How did Fletcher’s survive that competition and more, and how does the store still thrive in the face of the big box stores and Internet competition still out there? Pastor can sum it up in one word: service.

“What we have that they don’t is service after the sale,” he said. “We do our own warranty service, and our own factory-trained and authorized service on products even when they are out of warranty.”

Pastor explained that most big box stores outsource service to third parties, direct customers to manufacturers when something goes wrong, or simply tell them they have to find someone else to service the product. That someone else is often Fletcher’s.

“We service most major brands,” Pastor said.

“We’ll service it whether you bought it from us or not, if it’s a brand we sell.”

Unique situation

Because he is affiliated with a national buying group, he is able to offer better prices than might be expected even at big box stores.

“On any given day, we can be priced lower than them,” he explained. “Our buying group negotiates deals on products that are not available to the box stores, and we pass those savings on to our customers. It’s a pretty unique situation we’re in.”

Fletcher’s also carries brands that other Greater Nashua retailers do not, including Thermador, Sub-Zero and Wolf, whose products are often desired by higher-end homeowners.

Dedication to community

In addition to being dedicated to customer service, Pastor is dedicated to community service. He is a past president of the Rotary Club of Nashua, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and has served on the board of various nonprofit organizations. Although he still lived in Nashua while raising his children, he has supported many Brookline causes since moving there in 2002.

Fletcher’s has sponsored various sporting programs and events in town, and also stepped forward to donate a freezer to the Brookline food pantry when it was needed.

Indeed, in a business climate where bigger often dominates, Fletcher’s has maintained its competitive edge by remaining small enough to focus on customer service and sense of community, which have never gone out of style, even after 90 years.

“We can meet or beat the big box price,” Pastor said with a satisfied smile, “but they are never going to meet or beat Fletcher’s service.”

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