After 57 years, Yankello's will close Sewickley storefront
Mike Yankello remembers as a boy learning how to fix electronics by his father's side.
“During the Depression, he did everything he could to make a dollar,” said Yankello, 85, of Sewickley. “He fixed washing machines, cars — you name it, people would bring him things to fix.”
Mike and his brother, Frank, went on to open a shop in Sewickley's business district in 1961, repairing and selling electronics. But after more than a half-century in business against larger competitors, the Yankello brothers are closing the storefront Feb. 23 to focus on selling and repairing from home. They said they will advertise by word-of-mouth and through a website.
In the shop on a recent Wednesday, customers chatted easily with the brothers — they know many people who come in by first name. The personal touch will remain, they said.
“People asked me if I'm retiring,” Frank said. “No way.”
If a customer would like a TV, they said, the brothers can call them, and they'll still offer a competitive price on a variety of models. They also will offer repairs and installation. They said they will not sell products through a website. Their telephone number will remain the same.
“I can get the merchandise in a couple of days,” Mike said. “Frankie's setting up his garage, and I'm setting up mine.”
In the meantime, they plan to liquidate the merchandise with sales leading up to Feb. 23. The shop's showroom is stacked with new TVs, wireless video senders, and cables of all types. A half-dozen televisions sat near the door on a recent day — repair jobs for customers on the way back or just in.
Their repair areas, with pegboards spanning the wall holding dozens of cables and tools, will go too, in some form, to their home workshops, they said.
The brothers' love of fixing came from their father Peter, a steelworker at American Bridge Co. in Ambridge. He took home courses, learning how to fix televisions and radios and doing work for some of his co-workers at the mill, Frank said.
They watched and helped their father in the family's home in Sewickley, at a time when radios were more relied upon, and televisions were a relatively newfound luxury.
Just 9 percent of households had a television in 1950. That number had exploded to 90 percent by 1960, according to the Library of Congress. In the 1960s, “television repair shops” were a fixture in many small business districts.
Frank and Mike separately graduated from the former Pittsburgh Technical Institute, now Pittsburgh Technical College in North Fayette, where they studied electronics and television repair.
And they continued fixing and tinkering.
They first began operating their business in the late 1950s out of a home on Beaver Street, in the basement, where the brothers lived with their parents.
Then in 1961, they opened a store on Beaver Street, selling electronics and fixing broken televisions and radios. Frank said they strived to compete with bigger stores by offering comparable prices and offering a personal touch.
“Our foundation is the service we give to our customer,” said Frank, 82, of Moon.
In the 1980s they moved to their current spot. They still get requests to repair, but often, Mike said, people simply buy new products.
No longer is a television a luxury in homes that's always repaired, Frank said. Also, it's difficult to find parts for some items people used to have serviced, such as VCRs and DVD players.
The brothers also said it's difficult to afford the rent in the building.
“We're still competitive but the proper structure is not there like it was before,” Mike said. “Everybody is online.”
Kimberly Palmiero is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.