My Biz: Kevin's A-1 Vacuum in Cedar Rapids likes to keep things clean

Sometimes it's just a sock stuck in the hose

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The second day of the school year means a quiet morning across the street from northeast Cedar Rapids’ Daniels Park. Kevin Leyse has seen it before.

“School starts, and it slows down,” Leyse explains to a visitor at Kevin’s A-1 Vacuum. “As soon as the kids get back into school and mom’s cleaning the house again, it picks up.”

Leyse and wife Tammy, bought the business from its founder, Mitch Turner, in 2013. Previously in construction work, Kevin Leyse had worked for Turner for about 16 years before taking a year off to care for his parents as their health declined. He returned after their deaths.

“Mitch called me and asked me if I was ready to go back to work,” Kevin Leyse said. “... Six months later he came in and said he’d sold the building and wanted to know if I wanted to buy the store. So we bought the store.”

Turner had run A-1 Vacuum for “40 or 50 years” in the 200 block of Seventh Street SE, Kevin said. The Leyses added Kevin’s name to the business’ and moved it to its current Oakland Road location, after a brief stint in southwest Cedar Rapids. Son Michael also joined the business.

The Leyses’s energetically friendly German shepherd Mercy is the store’s official greeter, Kevin said.

You might predict the biggest challenge for a small, specialized, family-owned business.

“The (big) box stores,” Kevin said. “We can’t compete with the box stores (on price). Everybody buys there and comes here to get their parts and their stuff fixed.”

“People go out and buy at the box stores, then they need something fixed,” Tammy added.

Service, and fixing broken vacuum cleaners instead of discarding them, are the keys to A-1’s success.

“We’re a throwaway society, and we like to do our part” to counter that, Tammy said.

“That’s why we recycle,” repairing and selling used vacuums, Kevin said. “I just like to keep them out of the landfill.”

As for the machines themselves, Kevin said, “they don’t change a lot.”

A-1 is a manufacturer-certified warranty center for several makes and services carpet shampooers and built-in central vacuum systems.

“We’ll try and talk you through your problem,” he said.

“We get lots of people that call me for central vac stuff. I try to fix them over the phone — get them to bring me the hose and the power head before I have to go out and find they’ve got a sock stuck in the hose. They don’t want to pay $100 for that. Well, I understand that, but it takes me away from the shop and costs me gas.”

The Leyses strive for a quick turnaround.

“If it’s an easy fix and Michael or I don’t have our benches completely covered with something that we’re doing, we’ll try and take care of them while they’re here,” Kevin said.

What makes a good day?

“Every day,” said Tammy Leyse.

“We don’t have bad days,” agreed Kevin. “You can’t satisfy everybody.”

Every couple years we get that one person ,” Michael added.

And you figure we get thousands and thousands of customers,” Tammy Leyse finished. “So that’s all right.”

AT A GLANCE

Owners: Kevin and Tammy Leyse

Business: Kevin’s A-1 Vacuum

Address: 901 Oakland Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids

Phone: (319) 365-8308

Website: http://kevinsa1vacuum.com

Know a business in operation for more than a year we should consider for “My Biz”? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com

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