In 1951 Neal Kleindolph started a vacuum cleaner business from his home where he had a small workshop in his basement. He solicited business by canvasing Muscatine and the surrounding towns and farms. He left his business card at every residence letting them know that he sold and serviced vacuum cleaners and would greatly appreciate their business when they needed a new vacuum cleaner or repair of their existing one. He always had a Filter Queen vacuum in his Chevy station wagon, but only showed it if asked. He didn’t believe in high pressure – which was not his way. His slogan was “For a Cleaner Deal See Neal.”
Neal had a philosophy. “The most important part of business was treating every customer with respect and be as helpful as possible as soon as possible.”
In late 1954, he opened his first store at the corner of Mulberry & Fifth Street in Muscatine, IA. By this time, he had added the Hoover brand of vacuum cleaners and he rebuilt vacs that were traded in on new machines. He rebuilt many, many trade-ins – both his own and ones he purchased from Quad Cities dealers.
In 1956, he moved to 309 E Second Street in downtown Muscatine. He continued his vacuum cleaner business and continued to add more brands. In a few years, he expanded into the store next door at 311 E Second Street. During the late 50’s he began to offer different products. Fans, small appliances, transistor radios, to name but a few, but the most significant product was sewing machines. In sewing machines, he saw a product that was in most homes and would require periodic service and education. Almost from the beginning of the sale of sewing machines, training was provided. It should also be noted that all through the growth of the 50’s, repair work was an important keystone to success.
Toys and Hobbies were added in the last 1950's and were almost an immediate success. Kids of all ages enjoyed the fun of perusing all that was offered. Many a youngsters would spend part of their Saturdays deciding on how to spend their allowance. There were just so many choices!
In 1962, Neal’s became a Viking (today Husqvarna Viking) Sewing Machine dealership and is now the oldest Husqvarna Viking dealership in the US. Around 1964, Neal’s become one of the first independent Singer Sewing Machine dealers in the country.
A family business, Betty (Neal’s wife) had always kept the books. By the early 1960’s, his son, Jerry, and oldest daughter, Sandy, began to be called on to do odd jobs for the store. Neal began training his son to repair vacuums at the age of 12 and Jerry worked part time in the store through college. Sandy came back from school and took over the bookkeeping and was active in sales.
- 1964: An addition to the back of the building added much needed space for the ever-increasing toy and hobby business.
- 1968: Neal introduced the addition of stretch knit fabrics. Neal turned a second-floor apartment into class and sales rooms for Betty to begin teaching classes and selling stretch fabrics. In less than two years, classes and fabric sales saw incredible growth and needed much more space.
- 1969: Linda Whitmore started working part-time with Betty in the fabric shop. Linda became Jerry's wife in 1970.
- 1970: A decision was made to end the toy and hobby part of the business. The fabric and classroom were oved into that space. Fabric inventory was greatly increased, and Jerry and Linda entered the business full time.
- 1975: The addition of the store front at 307 E Second Street provided additional space for sewing machine furniture. Sewing classes are a big hit.
- 1978: Jerry purchases Neal's Vacuum & Sewing Center.
- 1983: Jeff Hunt, (Jerry's brother-in-law) joins the business. Neal retires from the business.
The 80's, 90's and into the 21st century see continued growth in all products with a great emphasis on sewing classes and a continuing effort to bring new products and ideas to our customers. Linda and Jerry, as well as other staff members, continue to attend sewing machine service classes, new product introductions, and many fabric markets.... staying up to date on all aspects of the business.
- 2001: Neal's Vacuum and Sewing Center celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Neal's creates an on-line presence with a website, Facebook page, e-mail, sewing videos...and more!
- 2020: Jerry & Linda retire from the business. Jeff becomes the General Manager.
- 2021: Neal's Vacuum and Sewing Center celebrates its 70th anniversary.
Today, Neal Kleindolph's legacy lives on. Focusing on our valued customers and friends, we are very proud of the fact that many of our employees were our customers first - who wanted to share their knowledge in a friendly home-like environment. We have endeavored to create a place where you can come even if you only want to chat. As always, we pledge to bring you the best products and services at a fair price.