Zellner’s celebrating 40 years of customer service

by Rachel Parker Dickerson

Zellner’s Appliance and TV in Conway has been in the business of service for 40 years.

Bill and Judy Zellner are longtime residents of Greenbrier and graduates of Greenbrier High School. They live on the homestead where Bill was raised. In Central Arkansas, it doesn’t get more locally owned than that.

In 1974, Bill was working as an appliance service technician when he had an opportunity to sell Whirlpool appliances.

“I was sold on the Whirlpool line of appliances, so I grabbed it. The Whirlpool distributor also distributed RCA and approached me about selling TVs as well,” he said.

He has been in business as Zellner’s Appliance Service since 1967. After he started selling televisions in 1974, Bill moved from Front Street to 925 Oak St. It was about that time that Judy joined the business, after some 11 years of teaching secondary business education at Vilonia, Quitman, Morrilton and Gould.

“The business was growing. We either had to get in or get out,” Judy said.

Over the years of being together both at work and at home, the Zellners have developed an affectionate dry wit. They laugh together easily and look adoringly at each other, even while their words seem to tease.

“I only wanted one boss, and I married her,” Bill said, with both of them getting a chuckle out of the joke.

He added, “I learned a long time ago to get a smile on your face and say ‘yes ma’am.’”

The couple laughed again.

“I think I’m bossy because of teaching high school. I have a lot of my students that are customers,” Judy said. “We spend a lot of time educating our customers. We are not high-pressure sales people.”

The couple has two children, Julie and Barry, and three grandchildren, Tate, 13; Luke, 10; and Emma, 8. They built at their current location on Harkrider Street in 1986.

“When we first built here, the tire store and other things use to use us for the reference point,” Bill said. Now when people ask him for directions, he tells them the location is next to Dixie Café or in front of Walmart.

The couple said the backbone of their business is service on everything they sell.

“Most of our customers are repeat or referrals. That’s something you don’t find much anymore,” Judy said.

“Service and personal attention is what brings people here and brings them back,” Bill said.

One of the best things to happen to them is joining a buying group, they said.

“We belong to the nation’s largest buying group,” Bill said. “They allow us to be competitive with the box stores. They’ve kept us competitive with the retailers and box stores, and we’ve always been proud we can offer more than they can because we offer our service. And we try to bring things down to a personal level.

“We don’t play games with pricing. We don’t lower the price and then add residuals to it to bring the price back up. Recently a customer came in comparison shopping. We were some $280 higher. When they got ready to make their purchase, with the remote control and other things, the price was within $20 of our price.”

The Zellners say they are happy and have good employees who have been with them many years.

“We really do have good customers,” Judy said. “Something we learned a long time ago was if we didn’t have those customers, we wouldn’t have a house, we wouldn’t have this store and we couldn’t have put our kids through college. Even though we’ve been good to them, they’ve been good to us also.

“I think sometimes corporations get to looking at the bottom line and forget what’s in between there.”