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Everything we sell sucks: The dirt on a vacuum-cleaner shop

UPDATED: Wed., April 13, 2022

Mike Lane and son Dave Lane, right, in front of their family store Everett Vacuum with their popular sign and saying, “everything we sell sucks” on April 7 in Everett.  (Olivia Vanni/(Everett) Daily Herald)
Mike Lane and son Dave Lane, right, in front of their family store Everett Vacuum with their popular sign and saying, “everything we sell sucks” on April 7 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni/(Everett) Daily Herald)
By Andrea Brown Everett Herald

EVERETT – The sign says it all: “Everything we sell sucks.”

The slogan has been on the marquee at Everett Vacuum, 2318 Broadway in Everett, for several years. It’s still getting laughs and making social media news.

A photo on March 28 on Funny Roos Comedy’s Facebook page got 32,000 shares.

“We keep going through spurts of going viral,” store co-owner David Lane said. It started with TikTok, and the store was featured on the entertainment site Barstool Sports. Lane’s niece in Germany told him about that.

Lane wasn’t seeking stardom beyond Broadway when he put up those four words about three years ago.

“I was looking for some tongue-in-cheek advertising,” Lane said. “When you own a vacuum store, everyone wants to tell you a vacuum joke, and most involve a punchline with something sucking. I put it up there more to just beat people to the punch.”

Before that, he changed the sign slogan every month or so.

“No jokes. It was, ‘German and American vacuums sold here.’ Or sale on this brand. Not like the Totem, where he puts something witty up there,” he said, referring to Totem Family Diner on Rucker Avenue.

The reaction to the “everything sucks” sign sure didn’t suck, but that’s not why it stayed up.

“The biggest thing is we’ve had a couple people come in here who would go by to Providence for their cancer treatments. They told us, ‘You know there’s a lot of hard times in my life but every time I pass by your sign it makes me laugh,’ ” Lane said.

“One lady came in here and her husband had passed away and she was in tears, but she wanted to tell us thanks for the sign because he always laughed at it.”

Another head-turner is the 6-foot vacuum prop that Lane built from wood and fiberglass. The small white storefront, trimmed in red and blue, is next to the Habitat for Humanity Store and across from the temporarily closed Alfy’s Pizza.

It’s one-stop shopping for new and used equipment, bags, belts, hoses and filters.

“We repair everything,” Lane said.

He recently fixed a $250 Shark vacuum that needed $30 worth of work to suck again.

His advice: “Do maintenance and a vacuum can last a long time.”

Best ways to destroy your vacuum cleaner?

“Sucking up too big of stuff,” Lane said. “Treating it like a lawnmower.”

Cleaning businesses rely on the store for service and advice.

“I always know that he’s going to give me the best deal,” said Brian Poirier, general manager of two Merry Maids franchises. “They work with me to try to figure out if I’m using the best products for my business. He does it for everybody, including my competition.”

Poirier has a fleet of about 50 vacuum cleaners.

“The turnaround is insane,” he said. “I’ll leave five vacuums and they’ll all be ready the next day.”

The catchy sign resulted in a few new customers. Mostly, though, it gets people stopping to take pictures.

Better snap one before the end of the year, because the building is for sale. The store will reopen at a location TBD but will stay in Everett. Or else they’d have to change the name.

No way.

The place has been Everett Vacuum for nearly 80 years.

Lane, 37, and his father, Mike, 60, are the third owners of the store started by the Hagen family.

The story goes like this: In 1944, Ted Hagen moved both his vacuums and his family into the house, which had been expanded by the previous owner to include a showroom and work area. Ted had been so successful selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door that he needed a storefront to sell the trade-ins.

Laurie Steinberg, a worker at the shop since he was a teen in the 1960s, bought the store when Ted’s son retired in the late 1990s.

“Everyone knew Laurie in Everett,” Lane said. “They still come in and miss Laurie.”

The shop stayed in the family. Lane is married to Steinberg’s daughter.

“My dad and I had always wanted to work together,” Lane said.

He worked at a prosthetics company after serving in the Army. His dad was in the auto industry for 30 years, in the mechanical side and mostly customer service.

“We talked about starting a hobby shop,” his father said. “This was our destiny.”

On a recent day, David Lane’s 11-year-old son, Samuel, was tinkering with a Kenmore-model cleaner during his spring break.

“I like to come out and help out here,” Samuel said. “There’s a bunch of small tiny rocks and I’m just trying to clean them out and stuff.”

Will he run the store someday?

“Probably,” he said.

There used to be another decades-old store in Everett specializing in vacuum cleaners, Clean City Vacuum, the place on Evergreen Way with a giant stuffed gorilla in front.

“After they closed down, we kind of absorbed some of their business and what product they had left,” Lane said.

The gorilla didn’t get sucked into the deal.

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