They don’t make them like they used to, but some guys in North Georgia can restore them to their former glory.
Antique Appliances is one of the only companies in the country that refurbishes refrigerators and gas and electric stoves produced before 1960. If the kitchen is the heart of a home, with its remembered aromas and apron-ties to the past, imagine the nostalgic appeal of reinstating your grandmother’s fixtures or lending authentic period details to an old fixer-upper without sacrificing function. The company, based in Clayton, has restored ovens from the 1800s, so conceivably you could cook on the range your ancestor used.
“A lot of our business comes from people who inherit a home and find some ancient appliance stashed in the basement,” says owner John Jowers, estimating that 85 percent of his projects involve commissioned restoration. “The first question people always ask is: Where do you get the parts? Up until 1960, the components of appliances were designed to be maintained and repaired, so we work with the existing parts that are already in the appliances—scrubbing, refinishing, rewiring, replating the chrome, rebuilding the thermostat. Compare the process to lovingly restoring a vintage car.”
After 1960, he explains, “we became a throwaway society. You had to replace an appliance rather than repairing it, and that only intensified as manufacturing moved offshore in the 1990s.”
The products are retrofitted to be code compliant for safety but otherwise stay true to their periods in the way they function, with no modern bells and whistles. Customers become familiar with forgotten skills like defrosting a freezer or lighting gas burners with a match.
Jowers’s father founded the company in 1948 as a mom-and-pop radio shop, eventually expanding as a vendor of General Electric products until the 1990s, when Jowers began to think retro. Some of the company’s most popular items are the GE Monitor Top refrigerators, which were mass-produced from 1927 to 1937. “They cost $300 then, which was a lot of money, but still less than the $1,000 that Frigidaire charged,” he says. “We also have a lot of interest in gas stoves from the 1950s, which have lots of chrome, gadgets, and bling. The backsplash looks like the interior of an automobile.”
Prices vary depending on wear and tear, with finished pieces falling between $3,800 and $50,000, he says. Antique Appliances works with an international clientele—including customers in Singapore and Dubai. “One client had a 1903 stove on a farm in Mexico,” he says. “The stove hadn’t been used in 50 years, but we were able to refabricate its parts and get it working again.”
Antique Appliances, which uses white-glove service Vintage Transport for door-to-door domestic pickups and deliveries, typically has about 20 projects in the works at any given time, staying booked at least a year in advance. The company’s handiwork can be seen at the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center, and it furnished the 1896 oak icebox used in the Hunger Games series.
“Each project usually takes 10 to 12 weeks,” Jowers says. “Each one is a labor of love.”
Antique Appliances also offers a large inventory of restored and unrestored vintage appliances as well as retro-style reproductions by Elmira Stove Works. 706-782-3132, antiqueappliances.com
This article originally appeared in our Fall 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.