Published on June 1st, 2011 | by Jennifer Kaplan1
500-Mile Kitchen Project: Appliances
This is the third week of the 500-mile kitchen project in which I try to renovate a kitchen from materials and goods manufactured within 500-miles.
Although I have a long list of items I want to source from within 500-miles of Berkeley, CA, my contractor, Eli from Integrity Construction, asked me to start with appliances (he wants to know what we are using for the rough-in):
- Wall oven
- Wine cabinet (I’m in the wine business too)
I started researching, to see if it there were any domestic manufacturers of kitchen appliances. I started with the usual suspects: Whirlpool (Benton Hills, MI, that sells its products under a bevy of other brand names as well, including KitchenAid, Maytag, Jenn-Air, Roper, Amana, and Magic Chef); Viking (Greenwood, MS); Sub-Zero/Wolf (Madison, WI); GE (Louisville, KY). And then, eureka!, I found Dacor, a premium manufacturer of kitchen appliances that is headquartered in Costa Mesa, CA and manufactured in City of Industry, CA (415 miles). I was excited to find that Dacor seemed to make all of the appliances. And then, I also found a Zephyr, a hood manufacturer in next door Alameda, CA (10 miles). And the Zephr hood even had the warming lamps I coveted. I was set.
I couldn’t believe how easy my appliance sourcing was going to be. But I had to break it to my D.S., Alex. “Really? All Dacor? But, I was really hoping for a Sub-Zero….” I gave extra scrutiny to the info about the fridge in hopes of convincing Alex (and myself) that the Dacor would make us happy. My first disappointment was that the really big Dacor fridge, the one most like the Sub-Zero Alex wants, isn’t energy star rated. Hmmm. But, the Dacor energy star French Door fridge was pretty big (we are a family of 6 plus a dog) and was without question a lovely appliance. But, it was not comparable to a Sub-Zero. I was determined to convince Alex that it wouldn’t be a compromise to buy energy star rated Dacor fridge. Later that night, Alex poked his head into my office and said: “What that first thing in the green triangle you talk about?” I looked up from the screen slowly not sure where this was going. “The mobius loop? Reduce is the best.” “What’s the second?” he asked. “Reuse…” His eyes brightened. “Let’s buy a used Sub-Zero” he offered enthusiastically. This wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.
The next morning, I sent my kids off to play dates and Alex and I went down to the General Appliance of Berkeley. It took a while for the salesman to fully understand why I only wanted to look at the Dacor appliances and a Zephyr hood. He questioned me about where the Zephyr hood was manufactured. When I said in Alameda, he turned to the office manager and said: “Did you know the Zephyr is made in Alameda? The office manager replied: “Are you willing to bet me on that? The sales guys then told me that I going to be thrilled with the Dacor range, the wall oven and he could give me a great deal on a discontinued 30″ Dacor dishwasher. He pointed out, however, that the Dacor fridge apparently is just a Kitchen Aid in Dacor clothing. And decidely not manufactured within 500 miles. The Dacor microwave was a private label product and not made within 500 miles. I confirmed with Zephyr that their hoods are made in Italy and Taiwan. And Charlene, fabulous showroom manager in San Francisco, confirmed that the Dacor fridges were not made in California and all microwaves are made by Samsung or Panasonic (hence, not within 500 miles). But Dacor ranges, oven and hoods all fit the 500-mile criteria. Lesson #2: A 500-mile rule is really a 500-mile goal. You likely can’t find everything you need manufactured within 500-miles.
A little more research and I uncovered a few more options at least for a range and oven. I found American Range, a commercial range manufacturer that now makes a commercial-type residential range in California. The website pointed me to a rep who in turn pointed me to Dvorsen’s Appliances in Sausalito, CA. Phoebe at Devorsen’s, with some advice from Josh Dvorsen, knows a tons about all things appliances. It turns out that American Range, has a bunch of different models of residential ranges. Phoebe also turned me on to Jade Range, another commercial range manufacturer that now makes residential ranges. Phoebe also told me about Windcrest Hoods in Brea, CA.
Some advice for shopping for local appliances:
- Lesson #3: The time spent talking with your local retailer or supplier, of residential and commercial products, can save you a lot of time. It turns out that google searches don’t hold a candle to a knowledgable retailer. The guys at General Appliance and Phoebe and Josh at Dvorsen’s knew exactly where everything they carry is made.
- This goes hand in hand with the above point, but engage your local, independent suppliers. As mentioned last week, only work with vendors who are enthusiastic about the concept. When I explained the project to my local retailers, they all were right on board. If there is anyone who understands the need to promote local business, its your independent retailer who has to compete with national chains and internet stores that often don’t charge sales tax. They are more than happy to prove that buying local has value and share their knowledge. Task them with helping you evaluate your options and with helping you find cost-effective, locally produced products. Letting your suppliers do some of the homework will make your life easier. More often or not they will also be very price competitive.
- Be flexible. I was hoping for an undercounter wine cooler, but quickly learned that like
refrigerators, there are none made in CA. I did talk with Jerry at www.WineCooler4U.com (who I found because the site is listed as headquartered in CA, although it has moved to AZ) that Vinotemp full-height cabinets are made in CA although their undercounter models aren’t. So, we’re going with a full-height wine cabinet that takes up more valuable vertical space but, in addition to being made within 500 miles and is shipped directly from the factory to us without a detour to Arizona, saves us a good chunk of change. Jerry was so knowledgeable (we had a long discussion about wine cooler insulation and energy efficiency) and eager to help he followed up with a recommendation for the VinoTemp cabinet made out of Bamboo.
So, after many hours on the Internet and a few half-hours with some knowledgeable retailers, I figure I can get 4 out of 7 major appliances from within 500-miles. Not bad.
Do you have any good, green appliances made near you? Please leave their names and website links in the comments.