By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
In 2011, Charlie McMullins had an epiphany in the middle of the local Lowe’s appliance department. He asked himself, “Why not repair and refurbish appliances, and make them available for a reasonable price?” The service would go on to be of help to our community in a myriad of ways — from selling appliances at an affordable price, to providing training and jobs, to protecting the environment. Econo Tech was basically born in Charlie’s driveway where he did it as a serious “side hustle,” and since 2019 he and his wife Ali have had a storefront in Athens. It is located at 803 S. Jefferson, right next to the Mapco station. Charlie started out scouring parts and appliances on Ebay, and parlayed his mechanical skills and experience in auto salvage into making a living doing what he loves. He also does it for the ones he loves, from his wife and kids to all of Athens.
In the years between 2011 and 2019, “a whole lot of life” happened to Charlie, and he found himself as a single dad with sole custody of his sons, Andy and Ashton. As fathers did a century ago, when school was out, he took his boys with him on service calls, and taught them the trade. The boys worked right alongside their dad, and it was a special bonding time for all of them. To this day, they love working with Charlie, and he is thankful for their help and their love.
Ali and Jessica Negron run the shop, and the addition of Jessica to the Econo Tech crew came about as a result of Charlie getting stuck in the mud, literally. He was delivering an appliance to the Negron’s house, and his truck got stuck. Jessica came out, got their family truck, hooked up the necessary equipment to pull him out, and did so with such kindness that when a job at the shop opened up, Charlie called her first. Jessica is completely bilingual, and recently mentioned in Spanish in a different written piece that: “We have services in Spanish for ‘the client.’” (Tenemos servicios en español al cliente.) What is important to the McMullins for us to understand is that we are ALL their clients, and they have “servicios for all.”
Four important aspects of the McMullins’ vision for Econo Tech are building a stable business, building lives, building the community, and strengthening the environment. We’ll start with the environment. Charlie is a guy that really understood that most appliances could be redeemed with a little savvy, elbow grease, and TLC. He also enjoyed the process of trouble shooting and finding the right part to get that appliance up and humming again. It bothered him that appliances were ending up in the landfill, and that people did not have access to solid appliances at a decent price. Now they have an option. Econo Tech never planned on having the lion’s share of their repair people be women, but that is how it worked out; and they have been able to provide jobs that are supporting families. By offering translation services, Econo Tech just naturally reaches across language and cultural barriers, and the community is strengthened. And, the net result of all this good stuff is that they are building a satisfying business that occupies a much-needed niche.
We are actually Econo Tech customers. Years ago, we needed a dryer, and were not interested in one that you needed a pilot’s license to operate, or put the farm in hock to afford. Just something that would do a thorough job of drying clothes would do the trick. Charlie handily met that need, and we have been glad to have Econo Tech as customers and friends ever since.
Econo Tech also has a junk removal service, which again helps the environment and the community. Ali told me that they actually feel that the classic orange-colored recycling symbol that is incorporated into their logo has personal significance. She said, “The top arrow is where we were, the second arrow is where we are, and the third arrow is where we are headed.” If a trustworthy used appliance business is what you are looking for, then head to Econo Tech today and let them help you find what you need. You will find experienced, friendly, hardworking people ready to help you with carefully refurbished appliances and outstanding customer service. And, if you need to get rid of your appliances, they’ll be glad to assist you. Call them today!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner