THE APPLIANCE CENTER REACHES ITS 75TH ANNIVERSARY – 1945-2020
The new Causey Grocery Co. Super Food Market just after completion in 1940 at the corner of Harrison Av. and 7th St. Note the small grocery store to the left. It must have been O. A. Causey's Grocery. A sign above gives the tel. no. as 755.
Our business roots in Downtown Panama City actually started with my grandfather O. A. Causey, who opened Causey Grocery Co. in November, 1937 at 657 Harrison Avenue near the corner of 7th St. My parents, Robert and Doris Causey Hurst, later joined them, and Robert became manager of the business probably in 1939. About April of 1940, a much larger store opened adjacent the old store with the new name "Causey Grocery Co. Super Food Market". People told my father that he would never do any business because he was too far out of town! My father also would reminisce about those late Saturday nights. Farmers and other country people would come to town and take in a movie. Afterwards, they would go grocery shopping. That was one of the busiest times of the week. By the time he and his employees were ready to close at around midnight, they would be so tired that one of his employees would literally crawl out the door.
Unfortunately, World War II eventually drew America into it. In 1941, my father was forced to sell the grocery business to Jimmy Hentz, and he entered active duty in the U. S. Army as 2nd lieutenant. Hentz's business was called the Jitney Jungle, and eventually it was sold to Sunshine Lewis, president of the Sunshine Grocery Co. As for Robert Hurst, he was stationed at Ft. Gordon in Augusta, Ga before receiving an assignment in Italy.
The interior of the Super Food Market. Robert Hurst, owner and manager, on the left.
The Hurst home at 1119 McKenzie Avenue. The garage where Robert Hurst started his surplus business can be seen at the rear. Doris Hurst's parents, O. A. and Annie Mae Causey, are standing in the front yard.
In 1945, he returned to his home at 1119 McKenzie Avenue, where he began a business selling war surplus out of his garage in the rear of his home. He then had some business dealings with Hugo Taylor at Surplus Trading Post, 509 E. 7th St. On January 17, 1948, he registered the legal name Surplus Sales Service and moved into the old Daffin Mercantile building at 551 Harrison Av. He expanded into hardware, building materials, textiles and appliances. His mottos were: "Where prices are born, but never raised" and "We buy and sell anything".
In the 1950’s, he opened a second store in Springfield, where in 1956, he established the Freezer Food Service. His motto was "The Best Food you will ever thaw". Besides food, he sold furniture from there as well as most of the things that he sold from the first store.
Surplus Sales Service in 1949 at 551 Harrison Av. Notice the telephone no.: 720. Photo courtesy of The News Herald.
The interior of Surplus Sales Service at 551 Harrison Av. Harold Courtney, Robert Hurst and two unidentified employees standing.
In 1961, he relocated the Harrison Av. store to the old Van Kleeck Co. building at 131-35 Harrison. Store hours were maintained at 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day except Sunday and a half day on Wednesday. I don't remember when he closed the Springfield store, but it must have been in the 1960’s. Now it just so happened that WJDM (later WJHG) television station was in the same block on Harrison.
My father developed quite a relationship with them and would regularly go on the early morning "Day Busters Show" with Donnell Brookins and later Tom Hipps. He acquired the name "Show Biz" for his quick retort to comments from the moderator. When the station moved to the beach, my father stayed on the show promoting his business. Later I, "Show Biz Junior", took his place. Surplus Sales' motto became "If We Don't Have It, You Probably Don't Need It". After the show was cancelled, I went on the morning Red Holland and Jim Wilson shows.
Robert Hurst with one of his service trucks behind his store at 133 Harrison Av.
Painting by Judy Revere on September 11, 2001 of Surplus Sales and C&G Sporting Goods as both businesses broke out their American flags to show their support for their country on that infamous day.
In 1972, Hurst built a 15,600 sq. ft. building at 21 W. Oak Av., to the rear of his old store. This held the largest appliance showroom in the Panhandle. Ownership transferred to me in 1977, and the store was incorporated on July 14, 1981. Appliances became the biggest income producing part of the company. In the early days, the major brands carried were Admiral, Kelvinator, Frigidaire, Gibson, Amana and Enterprise Stoves. In 1972 32,000 appliances had been sold throughout the business’s history. In the 1990’s, Magic Chef, Maytag, Whirlpool, Kitchenaid, Samsung and Jennaire became the dominant lines.
In 2002, the business was restructured becoming Surplus Sales Service, Inc. dba The Appliance Center under the management of my son Mark. The main operation was moved to the Oak Av. building and the motto “We Sell the Best and Service the Rest” was adopted. By 2016, GE appliances were added to the lines. Due to the severe damage to the Appliance Center’s showroom and warehouse by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018, the business temporarily transferred to it’s old location at 135 Harrison Av. We are rebuilding and will have a new store even better than before. At 75 years of age, our business is probably the oldest retail establishment in Bay County. We will continue to offer a quality product and quality service to the citizens of Northwest Florida.
Bob Hurst with Maytag's Ol' Lonely and assistant.
We will rise from these ashes, Changed but steadfast, Bruised but willing, Scarred but magnificent, In our conviction that our greatest asset, Is our hopeful, willing, unbreakable spirt.” Jennifer Nelson Fenwick, #850 Strong, #Panhandle Strong
This photo was taken 3 days after Hurricane Michael devastated The Appliance Center. Like the inspiration that our store front gave artist Judy Revere on 911, the photographer was inspired and wanted to create "an image that hopefully would show that we can overcome what Mother Nature had dealt us….your store front offered a visually dramatic example of what our city looked like after the storm…[This photo] was meant to show that although our community had been knocked to its knees, that we are strong and able to stand up proud ”. Photographer Fain Wynn. Promotional model Hunter Leigh.
On March 11, 2020 a new historic marker was placed on the building at 133-135 Harrison Av. Photo courtesy of Anita Thomas.
The Appliance Center 1972-2018. Note the off color repaired part on the left side of the facade. This was a repair from Hurricane Ivan (2004)
The Appliance Center seen in 2020 in its reconstructed condition after being badly damaged by Hurricane Michael. Sandstone lintels and a split faced block plinth course have been replaced by off white brick to achieve the same effect. The subtle use of lesenes break up the monotony of a solid brick wall. Signage, outside appendages and interior are incomplete.