Longevity in La Jolla: La Jolla Vacuum Center long on success

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

Editor’s note:

This is another in occasional features on businesses that have been in La Jolla for more than 40 years.
It’s no coincidence La Jolla Vacuum Center has been doing business in the Jewel for more than 50 years.

“Treat ‘em right, sell good things and have good service and good prices — that’s been our success,” said Kerry Lee, who along with son Jordan operates the full-service vacuum center at 520 Pearl St.

“The business opened in 1957 across from here on La Jolla Boulevard,” noted Kerry Lee. “When this building opened up in the ‘70s we bought it and we’ve been here, family-owned, all those years.”

Serving La Jollans is what’s kept the company alive.

“Without the La Jolla community we’re not here,” said Kerry Lee.

Lee said La Jollans acknowledge the continuity of the heritage of his family business. “It’s a dying breed,” he said. “They appreciate that.”

Where have all the mom and pops gone? More competition and an outdated product mix might be two possibilities, said Kerry Lee. But he added the real answer may lie deeper.

“Maybe they don’t have the passion from the prior generation to continue the business model,” he said. That’s not happening here.”

About his success, Lee said, “We know the products in and out: It’s obvious.”

Recently, the Lees expanded their standard product mix of vacuums and accessories. “We’re offering Miele appliances right now, dishwashers, washers-dryers, to see if that’s a need for the consumers,” said Kerry Lee.

Jordan Lee, who works alongside his father and is being trained to replace him one day, said of their relationship, “I’m the technician, the one who fixes everything. My dad handles the floor.”

The younger Lee gestures around the one-room retail portion of their recently updated shop, pointing out not only the forest of vacuum models for sale, but every accessory and attachment conceivable to go along with them.

Jordan said, “Almost any vacuum cleaner brand out there we can get parts for, service, fix, take care of.”

La Jolla Vacuum’s product mix includes “green,” all-natural, allergen and pet- and kid-friendly products, everything from shampoos to stain removers — even drain openers.

A customer can pick up a rechargeable vacuum from the Lees that runs on a battery for as little as $59, or select full-size vacuums starting at about $150. The store also carries used vacuums for $80 and up.

Kerry and Jordan Lee are an integral part of the La Jolla community.

“We’re not perfect but we do care, and we do try real hard,” said Kerry Lee.

Reach them at (858) 459-1130.