One might not expect an immigrant with no formal education to name his family business after Yale University. But that's just what Steve Sheinkopf's grandfather did in 1923, and the pluckiness of the name was a harbinger of the company's ability to thrive against all odds. Over the course of almost 90 years, Yale Appliance & Lighting weathered the Great Depression and other economic crises, yet Sheinkopf's grandfather kept the business going and even made enough to help his four brothers emigrate to America. In 1984, when the landlord sold the Portland Street building that had housed Yale for 30 years, Sheinkopf helped his father measure a space on Freeport Street on the coldest day of that year. They've been there ever since.
What keeps the company going is a refusal to rest on its laurels and an almost obsessive commitment to customer satisfaction. On any given weekday, you'll find Sheinkopf blogging exhaustive side-by-side comparisons of a variety of his merchandise. The now 25,000-square-foot store houses more than 3,500 lights and thousands of appliances and plumbing products, and its delivery and service departments have grown to include 112 experienced employees and a fleet of 25 heavy-duty vehicles and industrial-size Tonka trucks.
The family legacy continues to flourish. Yale Appliance & Lighting’s kitchen appliances have made the megastore a multiyear winner of Boston magazine’s Best of Boston awards. As reported in the Boston Business Journal, Yale earned a Green Award from Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the city of Boston in 2007 for promoting energy-efficient appliances with education and in-store rebates. That same year, the Journal named Yale Appliance & Lighting one of the best places to work in Boston, which may be partly due to the frequent in-store cooking demos performed by regional chefs.
PC Warehouse’s dual locations act as electronic emergency rooms for Apple and PC products, providing diagnostic, repair, and building services. The technicians grant full cleansings to laptops and desktops defiled by viruses, and they repair iPhone screens defiled by using a real penny to scratch a virtual lottery app. They also offer custom-built computers and travel to homes and businesses for network and hardware problems.
Ali Mohammad and Nadeem Mazen never got the memo that it was dangerous to play with lasers; they’re willing to carve intricate graphics into almost anything, including the 215 loaves of bread it took to animate the autumnal music video for OK Go’s “Last Leaf.” Now, from their shop—whose sign warns passersby that “it’s the future in here”—they etch equally creative messages and images into the gadgets and gewgaws of their clientele. Laptops, iPhones, and other electronics take on customization, as well as items stocked by the shop itself, from metal business cards to pint glasses and hardwood planks awaiting to become personalized kindling. The showcase demonstrates their expertise with pictures of previous projects, such as a guitar body carved with an elaborate swan and a kitchen knife inscribed with an ominous message.
Since 1923, Granite City Electric has illuminated local dwellings with high-quality interior and exterior lighting fixtures. Customers perusing one of the four showrooms or the online store can ogle a plethora of Norwell lighting fixtures, including the Onion Collection of outdoor enhancers. Stylishly light a dim patio with cottage onion wall ($81.23 for the small) or classic onion wall ($116.96 for the small, $151.62 for the medium) fixtures, or install a cottage onion post ($107.80) to shower backyard plants with artificial light while the sun takes its after-dinner snooze. To help homeowners navigate the confusing world of illumination, Granite City Electric employs a seasoned showroom team that can show customers the latest trends in lighting design as well as design lighting layouts.
Though the horse-drawn vacuums of yesteryear have come and gone, North Shore Vacuum and Appliance retains its family-run ethos from when it first opened in 1934. Now helmed by fourth-generation salesman Wayne Simonelli, the shop carries vacuums from dozens of brands, such as Dyson, Eureka, and Panasonic, and the staff performs repairs on a slew of models as well. In an interview with the Daily Item, Simonelli said, "I know vacuums. I go to seminars, conventions. I probably repair 1,000 machines a year." This dedication has earned North Shore Vacuum and Appliance the distinction of Miele Diamond Dealer, with access to limited-edition models only made available to exemplary retailers and scientists still trying to build a time machine.