When Mones Saad opened Garner TV and Appliance in 1977, he offered a unique policy to his customers: Try out the large-screen television or the fridge for free. If you like it, then you pay for it. If you don’t, we’ll come pick it up, no charge.
This way of doing business was in part fueled by his eagerness to be accepted as a local businessman by his adopted community. Having emigrated from Egypt, he knew that this close-knit, still fairly rural community would need some incentive to give him its business.
But for those who loved Saad, the policy was also simply a reflection of his eagerness to pair his customers with the right purchase, and his desire to help people out.
Saad died last month at 75 after a battle with lung cancer. His family cannot remember his taking a single sick day before his diagnosis. Though he retired in 2010, he was very much still a presence at the company he founded 37 years earlier.
His son, Amgad Saad, president of the company, said Garner TV and Appliance is rated among the top 25 independent appliance dealers in the country according to Brand Source, a network of more than 3,000 appliance dealers nationwide. Annual sales have reached $12 million.
It had been a signal accomplishment for someone who came to the United States knowing little English and with a wife and two young children, and less than $400 to his name.
Working his way up
Mones Saad was always mechanically inclined. As a child in Cairo, his sister Magda Saad recalls, he constantly took things apart and put them back together – everything from small radios to the family car, a Volkswagen Beetle.
Saad studied business while in college in Egypt but never earned a degree. When it became clear that the country’s political instability was not going to subside, he made the decision to emigrate, and in 1969 uprooted his family to live in the U.S.
A cousin had made the journey and settled in Raleigh – a city he had never heard of.
“He went to a library in Cairo to figure out where Raleigh was. It wasn’t listed on any map he could find, but he bought his tickets anyway,” Amgad Saad said.
It did not take Saad long to find employment, thanks to his mechanical talents. Though he fixed televisions out of his garage for years after his arrival, he worked for a number of local shops as well. His first job was at Crocker’s, a repair shop in Raleigh. After Saad saw a help-wanted sign, the shop’s owners told him the job was his, if he could fix a particularly finicky motor. He did it in no time.
When he founded Garner TV and Appliance, he worked the night shift at Amp Inc. until his own business was established. His work ethic was remarkable, his family says, as was his eagerness to succeed.
Leigh Hudson, owner of Hudson’s Hardware of Garner and Clayton, built his own home in 1978, and though he had access to wholesale appliances, he believed both in keeping his business local and getting service on his purchases. Saad had only been open about a year when Hudson approached him about outfitting an entire home with new appliances. Hudson said he’d need Saad to come in within 10 percent on the wholesale price to earn his business – Saad came in 10 percent under wholesale on his bid.
The two soon became not only business associates (Saad frequented Hudson’s Hardware for mechanical parts), they became friends.
“He immediately went out of his way to be helpful,” Hudson said.
Saad was known for telling people exactly what he thought, but never as a means of insult.
It didn’t take long for his community to embrace him as a businessman, and he returned the favor. His family says he was constantly donating appliances to worthy causes, whether helping a veteran down on his luck, a family who lost everything to a fire, or local church groups.
‘Loved the U.S.’
“He was very much about giving to the community, giving back. He never did anything for the sheer money. It was always giving back and doing good,” said his daughter, Rita Hines, a sales associate at Garner TV and Appliance.
In addition to deeply appreciating living in a democracy, he developed a favorite pastime in fishing – something he never had access to growing up in the desert. He often took his five grandchildren to the water.
“He loved the U.S., loved everything about it,” his son said.
Two of his siblings made the journey to the Triangle from Egypt as well, and Saad was more than happy to give them a place to stay as they worked to establish themselves. His sister, Magda, came a few years after he did and worked with him for years. His brother, Madgy Saad, followed in 1980 and also joined the company.
Saad was never happier than when his family was together, and he often worried about the one sibling, a sister, who remained in Cairo. They spoke on the phone frequently, especially after the Egyptian uprising during the Arab Spring that began in 2010.
“He was tough, but he has the best heart you could ever imagine,” Magda Saad said.