Curt Spicher: ‘Optimistic about the next decade’

By Mike Lewis
Curt Spicher is president of Spicher’s Appliances, Electronics and Security. The family-owned business has stores in Hagerstown, Md.; Chambersburg, Pa.; and Winchester, Va.

Curt Spicher, president of his family’s appliance, electronics and security store, talks about life in retail

By Mike Lewis
mlewis@crossroadsbizjournal.com

On his way home from the hospital after a heart attack, Curt Spicher had a stop to make — at Spicher’s Appliances, Electronics and Security.

“It’s been my life,” he said of the family business.

Spicher’s father and grandfather, Carl and Charles Spicher, started the business in 1955. The original store was across the street from the current location on Pennsylvania Avenue in Hagerstown, Md.

“They sold every appliance GE made — one refrigerator, one washer, one drier … ,” Spicher said with a smile.

Curt started taking care of tasks at the business before he could drive.

“My mom would drop me off when she was going grocery shopping. … Dad would hand me a dust rag,” Spicher recalled, and he would dust off the tops of console television sets.

From there he worked through other chores — “all of the things the owners have to learn how to do,” he said.

After graduating from Clear Spring High School, Curt Spicher picked up a bachelor’s degree in business marketing from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania in 1985.

He joined the family business that same year. Now he’s the president.

The business has changed, too. Spichers added stores in Chambersburg, Pa., and Winchester, Va. It’s also expanded its wares, offering appliances, electronics and security systems.

Curt Spicher and Sabina, his wife of 30 years, have four children, Callan, who works for GE in the New York area; Carrie, an event coordinator in Charlotte, N.C.; Ethan, a student at the University of Alabama; and Mark, a senior at St. James School.

The business, he said, is still in the family.

His father, now 87, “comes in almost every day,” Spicher said.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you face?

The biggest challenge is finding employees. We are growing and need workers motivated to show up every day, on time. Spichers is proud of our workplace dedication and tenure. Some of our delivery crews have been with us over 20 years. We have salespeople in excess of 25 years, not to mention our office and service staff. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that it’s important to stay educated and current on industry trends and marketing. We do this constantly.

Our biggest opportunity is that we operate with our own sales, service and delivery departments. We are in control from beginning to end of the sale and the experience. We do it all and don’t rely on third party contractors to help deliver or service our product. We don’t build the appliance, but we always try to make sure the brands we represent are up to our Spicher credibility.

How has the family business managed to compete with the “big-box” and internet retailers?

We are able to compete with the big box and internet retailers because we are part of a large nationwide buying group that gives us much better buying power than them. People are always astounded when they know that. We can sell at those prices and provide education, delivery and service. The buying groups also provide us with marketing co-op money so we can advertise on a “big box level.” Groups advise us on business operations and management and help cultivate great relationships between us as “Spichers” and the manufacturer. Our manufacturers know us, and all of them prefer to sell through dealers like Spichers.

What do you wish more people understood about your business?

We wish more people understood that we have bigger buying power than box stores for the reasons stated above. And while we don’t sell under margin, we will always strive to provide a better experience from one appliance to the next. The reliable name you can trust now sells security systems, too. We are proud to provide another product to sell to customers with the same trust. We are here to stay and take care of our customers.

What do you think the next decade will bring for Spichers in particular and for the region in general?

I am optimistic about the next decade, but I am always wary of markets and trends in smaller increments. Things change so fast. While we are a larger company, we are still small enough to make changes to protect us in different financial markets. Ten years ago, would you think of the failures of Circuit City, HH Gregg, Sears and the demise of bookstores? All our markets are leading the industry, and while we are thrilled and optimistic, we still do lots of strategic planning in all areas to continue identify threats and opportunities.

How do you juggle your responsibilities for a “work/life” balance?

When you have grown up and own your own business, it’s hard to let go. You never really step away. My family is used to it. But I try never to let it consume me. I am good at compartmentalizing things. When I get into my truck to come home, I really turn it off. I have four children and have coached all them in some sport or another. I take time to hunt. A month ago I suffered a massive heart attack and am lucky that small decisions my wife and I made and the amazing ER staff at Meritus Medical Center saved my life. These experiences have also caused me to re-evaluate what matters. My first stop on the way home was Spichers. It’s been my life.

Personally, outside of work, what are your ambitions and aspirations?

To spend more time hunting, fishing and traveling.