‘I can look back at servicing ringer-washers'
From left, Brian, Joan and George Babineau are proud of the family business, Fundy Appliances Service Ltd., which began in 1992. Lyle Carter photo
October provided two unforgettable moments for Upper Onslow resident George Babineau.
On Oct. 5, Babineau retired after servicing appliances locally for the past 45 years and two days later he celebrated his 70th birthday.
"I worked up until 5 o'clock my last day," Babineau said. "There was certainly a bit of anxiety. There was a feeling of both excitement and nervousness."
A Parrsboro native, Babineau came to Truro in 1962 where, after working for a few years as a machine-tool operator for C.A. Annands, he spent 25 years servicing appliances for Phil Miller Electric.
In 1992, Babineau started his own business, Fundy Appliance Service Ltd., in his garage.
"I remember having the urge to go on my own for five or six years," he said. "In the beginning there were times of waiting for the telephone to ring. Sometimes I had to wait for a couple days."
Many sacrifices were made during those first few years in business.
"I worked weekends, holidays and at nights to make ends meet," Babineau said. "You did what you had to do. Once you had the confidence of a customer, it meant a lot."
Babineau and his wife, Joan, ran the business for the first 12 years.
"I would answer the telephone and do the bookwork," Joan recalled. "At the end of the month I would send out the customer statements. George serviced appliances."
A significant change in the marketplace occurred in 2004 when Phil Miller Electric closed.
"Two of their technicians, Robert Gibson and Andy Main, came with us," said Babineau. "Wendell Hendsbee came as our parts manager. Our service area expanded and we began taking on warranty contracts."
In 2007, Babineau's son, Brian, moved back home and became involved in the business.
"I had worked for 10 years as an audio technician in the entertainment business in Ontario," Brian said. "But as a young fellow I had spent quite a bit of time around dad's business helping out."
By 2009, the business, which was still operating out of Babineau's garage, had grown to six employees.
"We did a search for a bigger building," Brian said. "With the intention of selling new appliance products we settled in a plaza at 178 Pictou Road in Bible Hill. We went from 500 square feet to 2,200 square feet."
During 45 years servicing appliances, Babineau saw many changes.
"I can look back at servicing ringer-washers which are now pretty well extinct," Babineau said. "The invention of the household microwave oven came into being during my time. The majority of appliances these days have electronic controls. Appliance motors are now throw-away items compared to at one time being considered repairable."
The years also produced a number of humorous experiences.
"A lady well up in age became a good customer," said Babineau. "On a damp morning I went to her home to repair an appliance. She met me at the door and looked down at my footwear. ‘Take off your boots,' she started to say. ‘No, never mind, your socks are probably dirty too.' There were certainly a number of those enjoyable occasions."
Brian, who has taken over Fundy Appliance Service Ltd. following his father's retirement, said that business is good.
"But, with one less service technician, we are definitely kept quite busy," Brian said. "I take a lot more telephone calls these days and I have a lot more responsibility now with dad not being here."
In retirement, Brian's father is trying to keep busy.
"I have a list of things I want to do," he said. "I enjoy woodworking and carpentry and Joan and I are looking forward to doing some travelling."
TAGLINE: Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.