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A conversation with Dave Kuzmick

Dave Kuzmick has been the proprietor of Sweeper World on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield for 19 years. Besides selling new vacuum cleaners, he does what almost no one else does these days: He fixes and sells used sweepers.

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It's unusual that you can (a) get something fixed, and (b) buy something that's not new.

Very few people fix anything these days. Anyone'll sell you something, but what about fixing it? Disposable society. Also, I find that the older folks here in Bloomfield, a lot of 'em don't have cars. And they don't need 'em: You know, on Liberty Avenue, there's everything that a person needs. But we [also] do a lot of commercial repairs; I have a lot of cleaning companies, Chatham College, WQED, local real-estate companies, you name it.

I live around here, too, and you know what you can't get on Liberty Avenue? Bedsheets.

Hmm, maybe I'll open up! We gotta fill that bedsheet niche. Anyway, I wanted to say the name, Sweeper World, well, it really is. I've sold to people who lived in India, and because the electric system's different, they were concerned about the conversions. We've mailed stuff to Canada, Europe. Mainly supplies we send out. Instead of a pack of bags, they'll order a case.

Is there any sort of ecological mission to fixing and re-using sweepers?

Yes, yes! Keep stuff out of the landfill! Absolutely.

You don't look like a tree-hugger.

Well, I have old hippie leanings.

I guess "sweeper" is a regional term?

Julie rears up on her haunches and jumps three feet to a shelf of carpet cleaner: Get 'em, Jule. She's a deal, boy. Julie knocks over several bottles. Beat it! Go get in the window. The cat I had before her, I had for 22 years, and she was a lady, and when I had to put Shirley to sleep I didn't want another cat, she was like family. But one day I went down the basement for some sweeper parts and saw some mice. So I got a cat that didn't look anything like Shirley. Her personality is completely different.

Now what was your question? When I first got in the business, everybody used the term "sweeper." "Vacuum" sounds foreign to me now.

Do people clean less than they used to?

Well, with husband and wife working through the week, they run their vacuum on the weekend and break it. Monday morning -- boom! -- they all come in. [Also,] you know the kids are gonna run the sweeper. I say, let the kids wash the dishes, let 'em make the beds, keep 'em away from your vacuum cleaner.

When I was a kid, I didn't want to do those things, but it was fun to vacuum.

Normally, I have some sweepers out on the sidewalk and it's the kids who notice most. For some reason, the little boys really go wild.

What did you do before you opened this place?

I was strictly a salesman, vacuum cleaners, door-to-door.

What's the strangest thing that happened to you on the road?

In Turtle Creek, I was showing a husband and wife the equipment, and they had a daughter upstairs. And they had a cage in their living room, ate up a quarter of the room, and they had a monkey in that cage. And as I'm showing 'em the equipment, and they're saying, "Sandy would like this, Sandy would like this" ...

About the daughter?

That's what I assumed -- but they were talking about the monkey! & You know, I got better ones: I sold a vacuum cleaner to people who had no carpet and no electricity. The people had just purchased the house; the moving van hadn't even come. And luckily, the neighbor was doing construction work and had a long orange extension cord and I said, "Can we borrow that?" and he threw it through the window so I could demonstrate. Forget the monkey, that's pretty good.

Is there anyone else in the city who has a shop like this?

Yes.

I don't think I've ever seen them.

Good!

What else?

I'll tell you this: You could get naked and roll around in a Dumpster, and not come out with the number of germs [you get] working on vacuum cleaners. When I was little, my mother said, "David, quit playing in the dirt." And here I am, playing in the dirt.

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