Debbie Schaeffer, granddaughter of the iconic Mrs. G, shows off a kitchen layout from General Electric’s Monogram Collection. The appliances are finished in stainless steel and the cabinet finish is distressed black. Photo by Chris Sturgis.

By Chris Sturgis

Debbie Schaeffer has taken the helm of Mrs. G TV and Appliances at a critical time.

Schaeffer, granddaughter of Beatrice Greenberg, from whom the family-owned appliance dealer takes its name, is overseeing the remodeling of the 20,000-square-foot showroom.

It’s a big production. Three partitioned areas along the wall have been freshly dry-walled and are awaiting paint in preparation for installation of display kitchens, including the coveted “Living Kitchen” by high-end manufacturer Sub-Zero Wolf.

Seven decades after Greenberg and her husband, Abraham, founded the business, initially called New Jersey Plumbing Supplies, in Trenton, the store lives on at the corner of Route 1 and Franklin Corner Road in Lawrence. They expanded into appliances to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and the home-building boom it fueled.

Technically retired, Mrs. G herself watches the store, greeting customers and chatting with the sales staff from a desk up front. Even Mrs. G’s great-granddaughter, Samantha, 14, answered the phones on a recent summer afternoon. So does Samantha’s twin, Leah.

Schaeffer credits the longevity and knowledge of her staff with the store’s success. General Manager Tom Gray has been with the company for 40 years. Salespeople Al Sackin, Chuck Dellaria, Omar Tobin, Ted Foerst and his son, Pete, Mike Shafer, Jason Berry and showroom assistant Marrisa Walker know the products through and through.

“If they don’t have the right answer to a customers’ question, they will go to the books and to the Internet to find the right answer,” Schaeffer said.

Mrs. G stocks 70 brands with products in all price ranges. The store competes with bigger retailers on price because the store belongs to a national buying group with more than $7 billion of buying power, Schaeffer said.

“If a customer does find a price that is less than ours, we will match it,” she said.

The remodeling of the store is far more than cosmetic surgery. It is part of the three-fold sales strategy. The Sub-Zero living kitchen will show a total of 70 pieces of equipment by that manufacturer working side by side, rather than separated by function and interspersed with other brands.

That special relationship with the manufacturer positions smaller retailers like Mrs. G to get innovative products before anyone else, according to an undated article posted in the Wall Street Journal Center for Entrepreneurs. Such arrangements are mutually beneficial because Mrs. G will attract attention by having the latest technology and the manufacturer will be able to get consumer feedback without going to national distribution. Mrs. G will have the only “living kitchen” in Central New Jersey.

A second reason for the remodeling is the creation of a new atmosphere, softer and more homelike, with new carpeting, paint and lighting. “It will be a fresh, new look for Mrs. G,” Schaeffer said.

The third element of the remodeling is to make room for cooking demonstrations and events that put the appliances through their gourmet paces in a pleasant, memorable way for customers. The new setup will be similar to the difference between buying a book from a warehouse to buying one from a store that has a café, live music and a book club.

To that end, Schaeffer is lining up a series of events for spring, where local chefs will cook while decorators create inviting table settings. Recently, Mrs. G hosted a “Dining by Design” event to benefit the American Heart Association, she said.

“This is a great spot for local businesses to come together and work as partners,” Schaeffer said.

Choosing home appliances is a hands-on business for many people.

“Sometimes people bring their dishes to the store to see if they fit in the dishwashers. Chefs love to come here and try out the equipment because they are thinking of what they want in their own homes,” she said.

Technology and style have huge impacts on the appliance world, nowhere more dramatically than in the TV room. Schaeffer said one might think sports-minded men are taking charge of family television purchases, but actually design-minded women are taking the lead because the ugly, boxy television set is becoming a thing of the past.

“Televisions have gone from 24 inches deep to 17 inches to 11 inches and down to as little as four inches,” she said. “People want that sleek look.” For more information, visit Mrs. G’s TV and Appliances, 2960 Route 1, Lawrence, 08648, or on the Web at mrsgs.com, or by calling (609) 882-1444.