The Vacuum Museum
By Chelsea Cain
Stark's Vacuum Cleaner Sales & Service in downtown Portland sells sleek Dirt Devils and sturdy Hoovers, but the thing that will really suck you in is its vacuum museum.
The walls of a long, well-lit room are stacked with models of vacuums, from durable wooden devices made in the 1800s to chic, space-age cleaners from the 1960s. The gray industrial carpet is, of course, spotless.
The 300 vacuums in the collection were donated, traded in, or sent by people who had heard about Stark's museum and just couldn't bear to scrap their grandmother's old Electrolux. Highlights include the two-person-operated Busy-Bee (he pumped, she vacuumed) and the Duntley Pneumatic. The salesman would attach it to the ceiling and do chin-ups from it to demonstrate its air-pump suction seal.
"Chin-ups is about all it was good for," says shop manager Ted Burk.
Burk, who's been at Stark's since he took a "temporary" job repairing vacuums for the family-owned store 35 years ago, is happy to answer questions and play guide. "Today people go to Kmart, spend $60 on a vacuum, use it a few months, and then toss it," he laments. He looks at the hodgepodge of clunky machines and shakes his head. "We live in a throwaway culture."
(The Vacuum Museum is located at the Stark's Portland location 107 NE Grand Ave. and is open M-F 8a-7p and Sat 9a-4p)
Reprinted from Via Magazine - November 2002