• What you didn’t know about Silica might suprise you.

  • Follow along as we walk you through the history of Silica Appliance & Electronics...

  • Article by Mark Sherry-Delta Publications
  • To say Silica Appliance & Electronics has come a long way in its 87 years would be a massive understatement.
  • Mark Sherry-Delta Publications
  • But some things never go out of style.

  • Just as Matthew Schneider did in 1922 and his son Alphonse started doing when he took over his father’s business in 1951, customers still get greeted at the door. They still see friendly, smiling faces helping them, and they still find people who know what they are talking about when it comes to appliances, televisions and other electronics.

    “None of the way we do business ever changed,” said Tom Schneider, grandson of Matthew and son of Alphonse.

    Matthew would no doubt be flabbergasted if he set foot in today's Silica Appliance & Electronics and saw the multi-colored, energy-efficient washers and dryers, the multiple home theatre rooms set up around the store, the giant TVs with crystal-clear pictures, and so much more.

After all, Matthew was just the owner of a cheese factory
in the tiny crossroads of Silica, a few miles northeast of
Fond du Lac. He undoubtedly listened to farmers on a
regular basis complaining about this or that breaking on
the farm and having to run to Fond du Lac or elsewhere
for hardware, so Matthew decided to open a hardware
store in a building directly across the road from the
cheese factory.

A natural businessman...

Matthew was obviously a naturally smart
businessman as he saw an opportunity. Tom
said, “If he would buy their milk, the farmers
could buy hardware and he would take it off their
milk checks. It’s pretty interesting hearing about
those stories now.”

Matthew passed away before Tom was born, but Tom knows firsthand about how his father, Al,
grew the business. It had nothing to do with five-year plans or mission statements. “What made
him so good is he enjoyed people,” Tom said. “It was a genuine concern. He’s the best
businessman I’ve ever met.”

Tom added, “We can plan growth—then there’s the growth that’s unplanned.” The Silica business
grew simply because customers liked the total experience of shopping there. People would travel 40
or 50 miles to buy what they needed at Silica. “It was word of mouth,” Tom said. “They had friends,
they had family.” People liked the cowbell ringing when they entered the store, the hardwood floors
and the tin ceiling.

“He was fun—he was a joker in his own little way,” Tom said about his father’s years in the hardware business. “He would know in the piles of stuff where everything was.”

Al took chances, too

Still an active senior citizen at 87, Al was understandably concerned when Silica Appliance & Electronics moved from its Silica location in November 1999 into its spacious, modern new location in Fond du Lac. But as Tom pointed out, his father ushered in plenty of changes himself during his years at the helm, including getting into the appliance, electronics and lawn and garden businesses and building on to the Silica store. "He took the same type of risks," Tom said.

Even though they have been in Fond du Lac for over 10 years now, Tom said there is still a special place in their hearts for Silica and the people of that area. But he said those people have remained loyal customers of Silica Appliance and Electronics. People still travel from long distances to shop there, and they still spread the value of shopping at Silica by word of mouth.

Of course, technology has provided Silica Appliance & Electronics with other ways to measure
customers’ opinions. As for online customer surveys, Tom said, “We hear a lot of the same things, the ‘you’re so awesome’ comments. It’s the same experiences we’ve heard before.”

Competitive in price

“We know we have to be competitive price-wise, but there’s a genuine care for everyone who walks in here,” he added. “All the employees here consider themselves part of the Silica family.”

Of course, a good number of Silica’s employees are indeed members of the Schneider family. Tom joked that his parents found some “cheap labor” in having eight children. Tom and his brothers John, Joe and Dennis are all part owners of the business along with their nephew Josh. Brother Jerry Schneider also has returned to work for Silica Appliance and Electronics, and nephews Luke Schneider and Steve Wagner also work there.

This fourth generation of the Schneider family entering the business is a generation which feels right at home around all the new technology found in the electronics and appliances sold in the store. “Those roots all stay there, but we open our minds to the change of technology and the change of innovation,” Tom said.

The recession has impacted Silica Appliance & Electronics a little, Tom said, but he added, "You still need appliances, and everyone wants the new TVs." When a person's refrigerator dies, they want something good, affordable and fast. With service, delivery and installation of all its products within a 50-mile radius of Fond du Lac, Silica Appliance & Electronics has it covered.

Providing “green,” energy-efficient products is another market which Silica has been tied into for years already and which will continue to contribute to the business’ growth.

To a large degree, that growth will come naturally, just as it did for Matthew and Alphonse—by servicing customers with friendly, knowledgeable people.

  • Pictured are the current owners of Silica from left: Thomas Schneider, Dennis Schneider, Joshua Schneider, John Schneider and Joe Schneider.