While many retail shops endure the plight of ‘mom and pop’ stores where big box stores and Amazon rule the marketplace, one store in Pelham Bay has stood tall and true for almost three decades now.
John Scanlon and his wife, Sherry, opened their home appliance store, Pelham Bay Home Center, on the corner of St. Theresa and Westchester avenues almost 30 years to the day.
“I don’t remember the exact date, but I know one of my daughters was born about a year later and she’s 29 this year,” Scanlon said.
Scanlon said he began his career at Virginia Westchester Plumbing, a popular appliance retailer in Pelham Bay that was in business for around 70 years.
Scanlon said he worked for the business for about 13 years before heading into his own business venture.
“My wife Sherry and I started this business and it has become a real family business,” Scanlon said. “I’ve had all my kids working here from time to time, one of them, Meagan works here now.”
Both of Scanlon’s daughters Meagan and Tashel have both worked at the store throughout the years as well as John, Jr.
However, he remembers the hardships of those early days.
“Sherry and I were each working two jobs, raising three kids, paying the mortgage and running this business,” Scanlon said. “We worked hard and eventually things turned around thanks to all our loyal customers.”
Scanlon said he still has customers that he first worked with at Virginia Westchester making them customers and friends of his for four decades.
As a business owner, Scanlon reflected on competing with the big box stores like Home Depot and online selling services and what it’s actually doing to communities like Pelham Bay.
“You used to see a family-owned shoe store, a florist, a butcher shop on the block,” Scanlon said. “Life changes and people buy their meats at Costco now, but we need stores with substance around here.”
Scanlon pointed out people who own commercial properties in the community are actually hurting themselves by buying online.
Though he does not like everything he sees, Scanlon is grateful to have his family and his health and the opportunity to give back to his community.
“I have an employee who has worked for me for nine years who moved here from Jamaica and this past year, he bought his family a house,” Scanlon said. “That’s amazing to support families through working at the store.”
Scanlon has stayed on the positive end of the spectrum and wants to see his community prosper.
He has a Mother Teresa quote painted on his building, “Not all of us can do great things.” “But we can do small things with great love.”
Looking towards the future, Scanlon hopes one of his four children takes over the business and will keep planting his beloved flowers outside the storefront for the people of Pelham Bay.
“Every summer I put out flowers, people love them,” Scanlon said. “If more businesses around here did that, Pelham Bay would look a lot nicer.”