Carrie Rengers

Richmond Electric to close after better part of a century

Another longtime Wichita business is closing, but Trish VanOsdel says her family’s Richmond Electric belongs to another era.

“The tool repair business is not very lucrative,” she says.

“We’ve kind of struggled over the last … five years,” VanOsdel says. “People just use their tools, and then they throw them away. … It’s kind of sad. There’s not a lot of repair going on. It’s a very disposable society.”

VanOsdel says the business opened in the 1930s or ’40s, and her father, the late John Edwards Sr., began working there in the 1950s before buying it in 1969.

Her parents retired around 1996, though VanOsdel’s mother, Marie Noyes, still answers the phone.

“It’s really just she and I left.”

For a time, VanOsdel’s four siblings all worked at the shop, too.

“Eventually, they’ve all kind of gone elsewhere,” she says.

She and her brother John Edwards Jr. were the last ones left.

VanOsdel left in 1991 to earn a master’s degree in fine arts but returned in 1993 to help after her father had a stroke.

In 2010, her brother was diagnosed with incurable cancer.

“I really just wanted to make sure he was taken care of as long as he could be,” VanOsdel says.

Her brother died in December.

“So now I’m ready to move on,” VanOsdel says. “This is not my life.”

She sold the motor division of Richmond Electric to Brian McNeil and his company, Rotek Services, which is at 955 N. Mosley.

“He really made it easy for me to transition,” VanOsdel says.

“I felt pretty overwhelmed by everything here even though I’ve spent most of my life in the business,” she says. “It’s one thing to have a house full of stuff. When you have a couple generations of stuff in 8,000 square feet, it’s pretty overwhelming. He just made it easy.”

Rotek Services repairs large electric motors for industrial users such as refineries, chemical plants and power companies.

“Whenever a homeowner would come in … I would always send them to Richmond Electric,” McNeil says.

“When I found out that Richmond Electric was selling, I thought to myself, ‘Well, there’s still going to be a need for that service here in Wichita. Why can’t I work on the little bitty motors?’ ”

He purchased the company’s repair assets, its name, number, e-mail list and has hired Richmond’s technician “so that we can take care of just the average customers.”

Though Rotek now will fix such things as pool pump motors and air compressors, McNeil says he won’t offer small tool repairs, as Richmond did.

“The cost of replacing those is so inexpensive right now, they should just go buy new ones.”

McNeil says he’s happy to offer the small motor repairs, though, mainly as a service to Wichita.

“It’s sad to see Richmond Electric close, but we should be able to carry on the service that they provided.”

VanOsdel still has a power tool division, which she plans to liquidate in a three-day sale from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 15 to 17.

“My hope is that everything will be out of the building that weekend,” she says.

The company’s building at 911 W. Maple also is for sale through McCurdy Auction, though VanOsdel says she thinks she has a buyer for it.

She is now going to do personal property appraising for McCurdy as a career. That includes art, antiques, jewelry and other personal property.

VanOsdel says she appreciates her siblings and her husband, Bruce, who have all helped with the shop and will be assisting as it closes.

She says she wants her customers to know what they’ve meant to her and her family as well.

“I will absolutely miss many of our customers,” she says. “I have seen generations of families come in as well as our loyal commercial clients, whom I have gotten to know over the years.”

VanOsdel also is going to have to find someplace new to work on her art. Her focus is mixed media sculpture, and she’s always used her shop to do it.

On the plus side, though, she says not having to run a company will free up more time for art.

“I will have more time to do my own work.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.