San Romano (left), owner of Krisay’s Appliance store, talks to Mike Leckey, general manager, in the store’s showroom on Franklin Street in the Kernville section of Johnstown. 

Susan Dietz’ refrigerator died a week before Thanksgiving. 

More than a month later, she’s still waiting for a replacement to be delivered. Luckily for Dietz, her family had a spare refrigerator at their campground. That will serve them until their new refrigerator arrives at their home in East Conemaugh.

But she still doesn’t know when that might be.  

Dietz said she was also surprised when she went shopping. She didn’t want a modern model, just “something to keep food cold and frozen.”  She found little selection.

“There were no display models or anything anywhere,” she said. “Lowe’s and Home Depot are all in the same boat.” 

She ordered from Krisay’s Appliance store on Franklin Street in Johnstown, and joined a long list of people waiting for a refrigerator, Krisay’s owner San Romano said. 

“It’s fairly difficult to get appliances because of COVID,” Romano said. “You had manufacturers shut down for a period of time or cutback on their production.”

The showroom is sparse at Krisay’s. Almost 10 months since economic shutdowns spanned the United States, appliance stores are still catching up. 

Most appliances, Romano said, are manufactured in Mexico and China. 

Romano noted that the major appliance company Whirlpool owns a number of other brands, so the pandemic has not only tied up one brand, but multiple.

“We’ve had people come in and order, but I’ve had an exceptional amount of appliances back ordered,” Romano said. “I can’t tell you how many back orders. I probably have 180 people waiting for deep freezers.”

Some of those orders were originally placed in June, he said.

“We are still getting shipments, but not our normal amount,” he said. “I’ve been telling customers, ‘I can’t get that in, but I can get this in.’ When you need it, you need it. We are in a pandemic, so things have changed.”

As companies manufacture new models, they are launching lines of freezers, refrigerators and washing machines that include ultraviolet lights or heat components to kill germs. 

“All of our product development now is being done through the lens of hygiene,” Mark Choe, a senior vice president at Samsung’s digital appliances business division, told the Wall Street Journal in December.

 While inventory is low, Krisay’s service technicians are extra busy, Romano said.

“The service end of our business is very busy because people who are unable to buy new are now repairing appliances,” he said. “Normally, at this time of year, service decreases. But this year, if I can find another service tech, I’d hire them.”

Production problems have hit parts supplies, too, however. 

“There are back orders all over the place,” Romano said.

Big box stores are in the same situation.

“Inventory will vary by location and our merchandising and supply chain teams are working hard to replenish in-demand items,” Home Depot spokeswoman Christina Cornell wrote in an email. 

In September, Freddy Hicks bought a house in Westmont.

He ordered a refrigerator and is still waiting on it.

“I know it’s because of COVID,” he said. “Manufacturers started making ventilators and stuff, so it pushed everything back.” 

Russ O'Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @RussellOReilly.


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