How stopping to admire a Trans Am led to the birth of Queen Vacuum in Shrewsbury

How stopping to admire a Trans Am led to the birth of Queen Vacuum in Shrewsbury

SHREWSBURY – John Decker, who along with his wife Rachel owns Queen Vacuum and HomeCare Center, believes that having a thick skin is crucial to succeeding in the retail world, especially when it comes to selling and repairing vacuum cleaners.

“I remember a situation that happened after I had been in business for some time,” Decker said. “I was helping a lady who was in a nasty mood and was clearly going through a lot of stress at this time in her life. At first, I didn’t know how to deal with her as a disgruntled customer. I tried everything I could think of to service her needs and help her find a vacuum, but nothing seemed to work.

“Finally, I looked her right in the eye and asked her why she was so distressed,” Decker said. “She broke down crying and told me her husband had just left her and took everything including the vacuum cleaner. We talked for a while and, after she calmed down, we were able to help her find a vacuum cleaner for a good price and she was very appreciative of our attempts to understand her situation and put in the effort to helping her feel better about what was happening in her life. It’s all about empathy and putting yourself in other people’s shoes.”

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Back the 1980s, Decker got his first taste of working for an independent business as a young man, and it coincided with a love for cars.

“I worked at a place called the Red Bank Radiator,” Decker said. “I would pass this business sometimes just walking by and noticing it in my travels. What really attracted my attention was a car parked out in front there and it was a Trans Am. One day, the owner of the business saw me looking at it and we struck up a conversation about our love for cars. He told me that they had an opening for someone to clean up around the shop and he offered me the job.

“I worked there for about a year and a half,” Decker said. “Even as a young man, I was so interested in the car field because of my fascination and love for them. That was my first job in the automotive business and I loved every minute of it. I took to it well and I always did whatever I could to help out. I had such a great respect for cars and I was so interested in how they functioned. I had this desire to always be around them and that turned into something meaningful.”

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Decker also went to a vocational school for cars in Freehold.

“The Monmouth County school system had a program that would teach young people how to work on cars,” Decker said. “I took a liking to it and really excelled at that program. There was always a mechanical aptitude out there for schooling and I took advantage of my time there.

“I stayed there with the Monmouth County Vocational System for some time,” Decker said. “I later found out that car dealerships had their own educational programs for the individuals that worked there. For example when I would go on to work for General Motors later in my life, that dealership provided me with the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of working on their vehicles. It was a sponsored program that allowed me to educate myself about the ways they built and assembled their cars. I was so grateful to go through that process and I am glad that it made me the knowledgeable person I am today.”

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John Decker services a vacuum Friday, July 22, 2022, at Queen Vacuum and HomeCare Center in Shrewsbury that he owns with his wife.

From cars to vacuums

Decker worked for about 15 years for several car dealerships. “It was a learning experience and I enjoyed taking in new information. Every car dealership was different and unique in its own way.

“At the time that I was in between jobs in my car dealership days, I went to work for Gene Graman, a friend of the family, who originally owned a business, then called Graman’s Vacuum and Appliance, a business that sold and repaired vacuum cleaners,” Decker said. “As I continued to work there and learn the ropes, I became very familiar with the business and got really good at it under Gene’s expert tutelage. In 2002, he told me he was getting out of the business and offered me to take it over, and I accepted.”

He chose the new name of Queen Vacuum to give the business a royal touch, as he had noticed other vacuum businesses doing the same thing, and chose “Queen” specifically to appeal to women, who made up the majority of his customer base.

It was an busy time in his life, as it was around then he married his wife Rachel and bought a condo. He was looking to make a change in his career too.

“I just wasn’t happy with what I was doing in the car business anymore,” Decker said. “Two months after I got married, I left the automotive field and went directly into the vacuum business. I jumped right into it because it was a product that I was familiar with and it involved having necessary people skills in order to run the business. I just liked selling high quality products and I knew the business from working with Gene.

“After having the business for three years, my wife was working for corporate America and she was going through a job freeze,” Decker said. “She eventually got out of that environment and I asked her to go into business with me at Queen Vacuum. She happily accepted and 16 years later, we are still going strong. We put a lot of effort into what we did with this business and we were happy with the results.”

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Rachel Decker writes up a service ticket at the Queen Vacuum and HomeCare Center she owns with husband John in Shrewsbury Friday, July 22, 2022.

‘You need to know what you are selling’

Queen Vacuum’s business is pretty straightforward. The couple sell and repair vacuum cleaners.

“Aside from selling and repairing vacuum cleaners, which isn’t very hard, a large part of this business is being very customer-service oriented and being able to deal and satisfy customer’s needs,” Decker said. “Interacting with people and being knowledgeable about the product is one and the same. You need to know what you are selling and what customers are looking for at the same time. If you can accomplish this, you can be successful in this business.”

The couple look forward to the future with much optimism.

“We want to keep doing what we are doing,” Decker said. “We want to expand on bringing other types of models to the business. We want to have a more diverse selection of vacuums for the sake of the customers. We have been successful so far, so that means we will stick to the formula, as it has served us well.”

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