Gary Kelley became interested in appliance repair at age 13, when his mother had the motor in her washing machine rebuilt.

“It was my job to put the motor back in,” he said.

Two years later, Kelley began working at Gil’s Appliance. Starting off with simple tasks like putting handles on refrigerators, he graduated to delivering appliances and eventually to repairing them. He began working as an appliance repairman at Neil’s Appliance in Pekin in 1982 and was employed there until the store closed about a month ago.

“I’ve kind of got appliance repair in my blood,” said Kelley. “It’s always interested me. It gives me a little bit of a thrill when something’s not working, especially if it’s something complicated like electronics, to be able to get it going.”

After Neil’s closed, Kelley started his own business: Kelley’s Appliance Service. He operates his new business out of his home at 813 S. 10th St., Pekin.  

“I always wanted to (start an appliance repair business), but I was happy working for Neil’s,” he said. “They were nice people, and I really enjoyed working there, but I constantly had it on my mind to start my own. I knew I could do it.”

Kelley repairs refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers, ranges and microwaves. He has also received calls from former Neil’s customers for consultations.

“I don’t mind people calling me if they want to know what kind of appliance to buy,” he said. “I’ve had quite a few calls like that since Neil’s closed. They’ve always bought their stuff from Neil’s, and they trusted them. I don’t mind telling them which (brands) are good and which ones are bad and get them on the right track.”

One of Kelley’s favorite aspects of being self-employed is visiting customers’ homes, meeting people, and learning something about their interests. While he retains close ties to his former co-workers at Neil’s, he plans to operate his own business for the foreseeable future.

“I am absolutely going to run it until I can’t work anymore,” he said.

Kelley’s Appliance Service is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 309-267-5174 or 309-353-9045.