Glebe Radio and Appliances is owned by Dabney Wharton. Mr. Wharton’s half-brother (referred by him as his “father” due to a large age difference) started the business in 1946. The first location of Glebe Radio & Appliances was at Lee Highway and Glebe Rd. (which is now a Wells Fargo bank). In the 1940’s, Dabney’s father sold a lot of radios as well as appliances, and in the 1950’s, he started selling televisions and stereo sets as well. He used to sell an even amount of televisions/stereos and appliances.
In the old store, his father also did repairs of appliances, televisions and radios. In 1964, he was going to buy the building he was in, but it fell through. So instead, he bought the building where they are located now (5054-5064 Lee Highway). After getting out of the army in 1972, Dabney joined the business. Dabney started by mostly doing deliveries and hooking things up. In 1984, he took over the business and has been running it ever since.
TV’s and appliances continued to sell equally until end of the century. TV sales then started to decline when other stores started selling TV’s at cost. Other businesses sold service contracts with their TV’s, but Dabney never believed in service contracts, as he felt that they were a rip off. Since he didn’t want to compete by selling TV’s at cost, he stopped selling them. Today, the business only sells appliances. Dabney stopped selling radios in 2001 or so, due to the decline in sales.
Dabney’s business is unique because it is individually-owned. People can talk to the owner, as opposed to a box store. Dabney hardly advertises at all anymore, because word-of-mouth and online reviews bring customers into his store. He provides good service, so he gets favorable comments. Dabney hasn’t had a big problem with large appliance stores taking business away from him. He is selling to a third generation of families now.
The neighborhood he is in used to be referred to as “Hall’s Hill,” a black neighborhood. Now it’s diverse because the housing is so expensive that a lot of the old families who lived there couldn’t afford to stay. In the 1950’s and 60’s, his father provided credit on his own to several young couples who couldn’t get credit, after some older members of the community vouched for them. So he would sell a washer or an appliance to them and he always got paid.
During the riots of the late 1960’s in the neighborhood, some of the people in the Hall’s Hill neighborhood stationed themselves in front of the store in order to protect it from being vandalized. Such was the respect this business had with the community.
Glebe Radio & Appliances
5060 Lee Hwy Arlington, VA 22207
Full Interview on Arlington’s WERA 96.7