I can remember sitting behind a great big desk at the age of eight, watching my dad negotiate vigorously with the salesman from a large appliance corporation. My father bought half a trailer load of new refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, and laundry appliances. Not only was I intrigued, I was inspired and motivated to have my own business.
Business ownership ran deep within the Belgrove family. My great, great, great aunt migrated from Barbados to Trinidad in the 1800’s and started the Belgrove Funeral parlor; a business which is still around today. My father also owned a few businesses in Trinidad before moving to New York. I admired his success and zeal so I decided to be an entrepreneur at a young age.
I always knew I wanted to run my own business. At the age of 12, I was setting up accounts receivable systems, doing inventory, and helping my Dad train new secretaries. At 14 I was running the business by myself; and supervising seven employees whenever my father was out of the country on vacation.
I graduated from high school at the age of 16 with a major in accounting. At 22, I graduated from Iona college with a BBA in accounting, I took an internship with Transamerica Leasing. Less than two years later, I was working directly for the CFO on special projects and traveling around the world giving presentations to international employees.
My corporate experiences enabled me to be a great sales person, auditor, an investment analyst, as well as a finance and pension manager and gave me the necessary knowledge and confidence to leave corporate America.
One day I had to leave work early and literally take over the family business. It turned out to be an 8-month ordeal. I was 24 years old and working full time for the bank during the day and then running the business at night and on weekends. (Thank God I had a good support team). My success during this period of time proved I had what it took to run a business. I increased sales, found new customers, and got rid of a ton of debt.
Upon my father’s recovery and return to work, he insisted that I continue my career in corporate America. A good idea because I received extensive experience in sales, financial analysis, investing, and more by working for major corporations like JP Morgan Chase, GE Capital Commercial Finance, Savin Corporation (now Ricoh), and Goya Foods, Inc.
Goya Foods, Inc. is the largest Hispanic food company in the US, and they are family owned and operated. Their success inspired me to continue what my father had started, just as they had done with the business their grandfather created more than six decades ago. They seemed to have mastered a large corporate environment while keeping the family feel to everything they did.
Since I knew all aspects of the business side of the appliance industry; in June 2000, six months after my father passed away, I started my own appliance business, Belgrove Appliance, Inc. Aside from managing the business and focusing on creating new sales, I began focusing on learning to repair the appliances myself. I took a commercial appliance repair course and completed a more extensive home appliance repair correspondence course. I received extensive mentorship and training from other business owners on appliance repair and specialized stove restoration techniques. Before I knew it, I was repairing stoves, washers, dryers, refrigerators, air conditioners and dishwashers. I knew my father specialized in repairing Crown stoves and I took a liking to them as well. One old stove led to another and all of the sudden I was the “Stove Lady.”
Always looking to assist my customers in any way possible, I offered to clean a stove for a busy housewife after I had finished repairing it. She agreed and a whole new market opened up for me. Who better to dismantle and safely clean a gas stove than a stove repair person?
My customers are receiving a full scale of services (more than my father ever dreamed of offering). And I am dedicated to providing the integrity, reliability, and honesty that the industry so desperately needs. I train my team that honesty is more important than their technical ability, because customers don’t care how much you know, they only want to know how much you care.
I have owned this business for ten years now, and I am proud to have restored ranges and provided parts to people as far away as Canada, Mexico, Florida, California, and many other states in the union. Ten years goes by so fast. I hope to make the restoration process more affordable so more people can have a restored range in their home. Right now this is a luxury service only afforded by the few. The older ranges are really more reliable than anything on the market today and I love what I do!
Carlita Belgrove, “The Stove Lady”