CRYSTAL LAKE – We live in a world of online retailers and big-box stores, where the need for customer service often is met with a form or a robot, and scheduling support can leave us without the luxury of certain appliances for weeks at a time.
We’ve seen large names come and go, but a local company still stands tall off Route 176 in Crystal Lake. Now in its 60th year, Gulgren Appliance continues to offer the utmost in appliances, service and parts to McHenry County residents.
The sign over the front doors reads “Your Neighborhood Expert,” something second-generation owners Mike Gulgren and Gulgren’s brother-in-law, Greg Danielson, stand by.
“Our longevity has a lot to do with the personal service and willingness we have to go the extra mile,” Gulgren said. “Our salesmen have been around for years and have a lot of experience. They’re not pushy and will spend the extra time with customers to make sure they are getting what they need. After the sale, we will deliver and install the items. We also have our own service department that can answer questions and address problems within a reasonable time period. We stick to the same type of business that my dad and uncle started years ago, doing it the old-fashioned way. We know that if you treat others as you’d like to be treated, they will come back. We’re able to stand behind the installations and warranties and do the whole thing right, from the start.”
Gulgren Appliance opened in March 1959 in a unit that now is the parking lot on the northwest side of Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen in Crystal Lake. Mike’s father, Gene Gulgren, grew up with his brother, Leroy, on a farm at the corner of Main Street and Route 14 in Crystal Lake.
Both went into the military, and upon their release from active duty, Gene worked in an appliance store in Woodstock while Leroy went to work at the former Pure Oil Co. in Crystal Lake. The two decided they wanted to venture out on their own, purchasing what was then Andy’s Appliance in Crystal Lake. From this, Gulgren Appliance was born. Leroy was head of sales, and Gene ran the service department. Their father, Carl, would come in to do bookkeeping.
A few years after opening, Gene and Leroy expanded, moving to their current location, 424 W. Terra Cotta Ave., equipped with a 5,000-square-foot showroom and 7,500-square-foot warehouse.
Danielson began delivering for Gulgren when he was 16. Within six months, Gene’s daughter, Sue, caught his eye, and the two were married six years later. Keeping the business in the family, Danielson and Mike Gulgren took over the business in 1997. With more than 200 items on display and 13 employees who are practically family, Danielson and Gulgren don’t see retirement in the near future.
“We’ll work forever,” Danielson joked. “We’re two brothers-in-law that truly get along. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t make me laugh. Mike is head of sales and installation, and I run service. That’s probably why it works. We don’t get in each other’s hair. Also, our staff is amazing. We have some people that have been here for over 30 years, and without them we wouldn’t be here.”
Crystal Lake resident Ralph Dawson is a fan of the Gulgren Appliance team. Gulgren Appliance opened the same year Dawson married his wife, Linda. Dawson became a lifelong customer after Gene repaired a two-piece toaster that his mother bought from the Omar Man of the Omar Baking Company.
“It was a beautiful appliance,” Dawson said. “It must have weighed 6 pounds, but I took it in and Gene repaired it. Soon after, we needed a washer, so we went and picked one up, and it went on from there.”
Dawson continues to be a loyal customer because of Gulgren’s long-standing reputation in the community.
“They have always had a great reputation for service, and they still do today,” Dawson said. “You give Greg a call with a question and he’ll give you an answer. If he doesn’t have one, he’ll come out and fix it for you.”
“It’s not really rocket science. It’s hard work,” Danielson said. “There aren’t many stores left in Crystal Lake where everything is in-house. When you pick up the phone, you’re dealing with everyone in-house. It’s a thing of the past, but it’s what we do now. We can control what goes on, and if there is an issue, we can just take care of it.”
Gulgren Appliance’s 60th anniversary sale began Oct. 28 and will continue through the end of November. Purchased appliances are available for delivery, installation and service for McHenry County residents. For information, visit gulgren.com or call 815-459-4380.