Holt gives it one last whirl

POULSBO — Many of his old customers know him simply as Phil, but after the first of the year, someone else will be making the house calls.

Since 1959, Phil Holt has serviced appliances throughout the North End as a repairman for Nilsen’s Appliance Center in downtown Poulsbo.

When he first started right out of high school, Holt said he knew pretty much every customer by name, but now he’s hard pressed to find two or three names he recognizes on any given day.

“The total growth in volume has been unbelievable,” he said. “Any time you start selling more product, you have more service.”

As Nilsen’s has grown from a building across the street into its current location at the corner of Front Street and Jensen Way, its repair department has grown, too, he said.

“We’ve gone from one to three full-time guys and now you couldn’t just walk in like I did and do this,” Holt said, noting how much technology has factored into today’s appliances.

Through the years, Holt has seen appliances become increasing hi-tech and he’s also seen the colors change.

“We used to have violet, turquoise and even poppy-seed red, but now everything’s pretty much black, white or stainless,” he said.

In his 46 years on the job, Holt has witnessed his fair share of unusual occurrences and even dealt with a cat or two in the dryer.

Many years ago, a customer brought in a dryer to be repaired and when he plugged it and turned it on, Holt said he heard a meow.

“I thought, ‘Oh great,’ so my son went and got a bag of cat food and sure enough a cat came out,” he said. “However, I told him it wasn’t the cat that I saw.”

As fate would have it, three kittens had ventured into the dryer through the vent and all three were safely returned to their owner, he recalled with a smile.

Washing machines have also provided priceless moments through the years, Holt said as he told about one that wouldn’t spin.

After arriving on the scene, Holt said he noticed something peculiar floating in the machine. It turned out to be cucumbers.

“How do I tell this lady I’m picking cucumbers (she was rinsing) out of her washing machine?” he asked, recalling how instead of having the water level set on the low water mark, the customer had it set on the high water mark.

Fortunately, calls like those have been the exception rather than the rule but Holt said he has always listened to the customer before setting out to find the problem.

“I tell our call taker to tell us what people tell you, I don’t want what you think is wrong,” he said, noting that by listening to people describe the problem, the solution is often simple.

A classic example of this was when a customer called complaining that their refrigerator kept making a ticking sound, he said.

“It turns out there was a clock above the refrigerator and when I moved it, the sound went away,” he said.

Now with retirement just days away, Holt said he has plenty of things to do around the house and he’s even got a truck and fifth-wheel trailer he might take out on the road. As Holt retires, Nilsen’s Appliance owner Bruce Nilsen now has the unenviable task of finding another repairman.

“It’s always been in good hands and I feel very lucky we had all the years we had with him,” Nilsen said.

With Holt at the helm, the service department has run smoothly and Holt has been able to bring in two solid service technicians to continue his tradition of excellence, Nilsen said.

“I’m most worried about trying to locate another capable person, because there’s no real pool to chose from,” he said. “We’ve been blessed to have him.”

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