Headline: Grilling season is here at Dunnett’s… and everywhere

Weber calls the Spirit series the &quotbest entry-level stationary cart gas grill on the market." This model features stainless-steel cooking grates. Its various parts carry warranties from 2 to 25 years, in contrast to the typical one-year warranty across the board for typical inexpensive big-box grills.
Photo courtesy of Weber-Stephen Products
Weber calls the Spirit series the "best entry-level stationary cart gas grill on the market." This model features stainless-steel cooking grates. Its various parts carry warranties from 2 to 25 years, in contrast to the typical one-year warranty across the board for typical inexpensive big-box grills.
Posted March 31, 2012, at 10:05 a.m.

When you think “appliances,” you probably don’t think about grills, and you might not think “Dunnett’s.” But the store carries them — and a brand consistently rated by groups such as Consumer Reports as being the best value for the money.

Weber grills are certainly an American success story. It began in 1951 when George Stephen worked for the Weber Brothers Metal Works near Chicago, welding spherical buoys for a local yacht club, and he had an idea. As an avid griller, he found the typical flat, open braziers of the day to be inefficient and inadequate, but it occurred to him that he could fashion a grill out of the unwelded halves of a buoy. It didn’t work well at first, until a neighbor suggested poking holes in it to provide oxygen for the fire. That did the trick, and Weber grills were born.

Dunnett’s has carried other grill lines in the past, but only has Weber now. “We tried many other brands over the years and we just had too many issues,” said owner Jack Eisentrager.

These aren’t what you’ll find at discount department stores. Check out a Weber grill and then compare it to any of the cheap grills and you’ll almost certainly see the word “cheap” really means something there. With grills, you certainly get what you pay for.

“A lot of people, when they go to buy a grill, go, ‘Ah, I don’t want to spend more than $200,’” Eisentrager said. “But what happens is a year and a half, two years, three years down the road, they’re out buying another grill.”

The entry-level grill at Dunnett’s is $399, built like a tank, and loaded with warranties that cheap grills can only dream about. A typical grill has a one-year warranty, and when they start coming apart, you’re plagued with many factors: no more warranty, can’t find replacement parts, too expensive when you do find them, and so on.

Weber warranties things like aluminum castings and stainless-steel and porcelain-enameled shrouds for 25 years. You’ll get 10 years on stainless-steel burner tubes, and 2-5 years on smaller parts such as rotisseries, grates, and flavorizer bars. And if you do need a replacement part that’s under warranty, all you have to do is call a toll-free number and Weber will ship it directly to you without the need for a service call.

“There are a lot of price points out there and a lot of different qualities, but Weber is a good investment,” Eisentrager said. “The inconvenience of having to buy a grill every couple of years — why not have one good one that’s going to last 5 years or longer?”

Of course, Dunnett’s has always been careful about carrying only quality products that hold up well. The store never jumps on the bandwagon when a new product line appears, no matter what kind of product. For example, when Samsung and LG began making appliances, Dunnett’s waited cautiously.

“We let a period of time go by to read about them, to hear about them, and to see how they’d be rated before we decided to take them on — just to make sure that we weren’t getting ourselves into a bad situation by selling products that weren’t standing up to good standards,” Eisentrager said.

Dunnett’s routinely fends off arguments about the big-box competition for major appliances, as many people assume it’s cheaper at the big-box stores. But Dunnett’s is part of the largest buying group in the country, which keeps its prices competitive with the big-box competition, and if not they’ll price match. But Eisentrager stressed that there’s a lot more to a major appliance than just the sticker price.

For example, big-box stoves don’t often include range cords, dryer cords, venting, delivery, and free-standing installation, all things Dunnett’s does. When you add up all the extra fees you incur at a big-box store, what seemed like a great deal suddenly isn’t so great. And often it wasn’t a great deal in the first place.

“There’s this perception by people that [the big-box stores] so big that they have to be better priced,” Eisentrager said. “A lot of times we’re a better value.”

And, of course, Dunnett’s has an experienced staff, with employees ranging from 5 to 34 years there. They aren’t working minimum-wage jobs and won’t likely be gone when you come in next like you’re apt to find in the big-box world.

The biggest deciding factor, he said, is service: Dunnett’s services what it sells. The big-box stores often don’t, and buyers aren’t aware that their appliances might have to ship out of state at their expense to get serviced. In fact, Dunnett’s fields regular requests from big-box stores that want Dunnett’s to pick up their service contracts. But Eisentrager said Dunnett’s is interested in taking care of its own customers, and certainly not helping the big-box competition succeed.

“We’re fortunate that we’ve been here as long as we have and built a clientele of people,” Eisentrager said. “A lot of parents bring their kids in when they’re doing their first home and introduce us, because they want them to buy here and they know the difference.”

Besides the Weber grills, Dunnett’s carries a wide array of other major appliances. Purchases of Energy Star-certified appliances are eligible for a $50 rebate through Efficiency Maine at least through June.

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