Watch Now: Owner of Aabells Sales & Service Retires After 40 Years of Business at Mattoon | Local
MATTOON – For over 40 years, customers near and far have turned to Terry Lee when they needed to fix vacuums, clocks, lamps and many other household items.
Now Lee is preparing to retire and has listed his Aabells Sales & Services store at 1813 Broadway Ave. in downtown Mattoon. Lee, 81, said he probably could have worked a few more years, but prices that rose by as much as 30% for various products made him decide it was time to retire.
âIt was fun,â Lee said of his work at Aabells, adding wryly, âI haven’t missed too many days of work.â
Lee said he started running the sales and service shop in 1980 for owner Paul Lauterborn, whose main business was a small home appliance repair store in Champaign. He said Lauterborn took inspiration from the store name Mattoon because he was “able” to fix just about anything, and added an additional “a” to “able” to get it listed. first in the phone book.
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In 1981, Lee and his wife, Doris, purchased the Mattoon store from the estate of the late Lauterborn and chose to keep the already established name of Aabells. Lee said the store’s name has earned him being referred to as “Mr. Aabell” on numerous occasions when customers have seen it at the grocery store or other public places.
âI’m just waving and going. It’s better than trying to explain,â Lee said.
During his 40 years in business, Lee’s reputation for his ability to repair a wide variety of household items has extended far beyond Mattoon. Lee said he has handled many orders from out-of-state customers, such as repairing an electric razor recently sent by a customer to Eugene, Oregon. Much of his store is stocked with spare parts for various items that his customers need to fix.
âThey bring all kinds of stuff,â Lee said, noting that he had repaired items ranging from hairdryers to pressure cookers.
Lee said he likely inherited his repair skills from his father, the talented watch repairer Eugene Lee, who was killed while serving in the US military in Europe during World War II. Lee said he later honed his own talents while working in different trades, including testing meters for Electric Laboratories.
Aabells has also long been known for selling model trains and Lionel sets. Lee said he has also sold many Lionel products to customers outside of Illinois, most recently in California, Georgia and North Carolina.
Lee keeps a model train with over 30 feet of track in his workshop and is often found working on the controls of his engines. He said the vast set of model trains were for sale with his store as he had other plans in mind for his retired garage. In retirement, Lee will also spend more time with his wife, who works for Dimond Brothers Insurance.
The store owner said he would like to find someone to buy Aabells Sales & Service to keep it going, but is otherwise considering selling his stock at closing prices and then having an auction for the items. remaining, if necessary. . He said the building would continue to belong to Marilyn Degler McClean.
Lee said he hates leaving the store, but will bring a lot of fond memories and ongoing customer relationships with him.
âI have a lot of good clients. They’re like family,â Lee said.
Contact Rob Stroud at 217-238-6861.