American announced Monday that the company is closing after 60 years in business. Among the stores impacted by the decision is American's store on Davenport's Elmore Avenue. A liquidation sale will begin Thursday.

Larry Fisher

Citing an “unforgiving” economy over the past five years, American TV & Appliance announced Monday that it is closing the 60-year-old business.

In a news release, the Madison, Wis.-based retailer said the closing will occur after it completes a going-out-of-business sale at its stores, which is set to begin Thursday.

Among American’s 11 locations affected by the closing is a 130,000-square-foot store on Davenport’s Elmore Avenue, which opened in 1998. An employee who answered the telephone there said there would be no comment other than the company’s news release.

In the company’s statement, American said “The last five years have been very difficult for our industries. We have fought hard, valiantly and with great integrity.”

American’s president and CEO Doug Reuhl, who has led the company since 1988, described the news as a sad, but proud moment. “It’s a moment to be proud of our efforts and to be proud of what we have delivered to the community.”

The furniture, electronics and appliance retailer said the 989 employees affected in 11 locations were given advanced notice of the closing. They will be compensated, with benefits, through the notification period, and the majority will continue working through the closing process.

American said it is filing a Wisconsin Statues Chapter 128 receivership for protection of its creditors. Michael Polsky will be appointed as the receiver of the business.

During the sale, American said it plans to continue to “fully serve” customers by:

  • Honoring gift cards during the store-closing sale or providing refunds to customers who do not want to redeem them.
  • All extended warranty policies that customers purchased are valid and insured through a third-party insurance company.
  • Customers with open orders and waiting for delivery either will be delivered their orders or receive a refund of their deposit.
  • All products in the service center will be repaired or returned to the customer before closing.

American TV & Appliance operates 10 retail stores: six in Wisconsin, and two each in Illinois and Iowa. The closest American stores to its Davenport store are in Des Moines and in Peoria. Each store averages about 130,000 square feet, according to American's website.

The news was a surprise to at least one city official as well as leaders of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, who had no comment.

"I'm disappointed, of course, to lose a major retailer like that," Davenport Alderman Gene Meeker, at large, said. "Now we have a vacancy in that corridor plus the loss of those jobs. That's a big hole to fill."

Meeker said the Davenport store's closing comes at the same time that Elmore Avenue is seeing a burst of activity, including development of outlots along Elmore and the nearby Elmore Marketplace project. Construction is moving forward on the Moline-based Heart of America Group's $35 million mixed-use project, which will include a hotel and several major national retailers.

A co-owner of Zeglin's, an independent TV and appliance store based in the Quad-Cities, agreed that the economy has been tough on the industry. "It always saddens us when anybody goes out of business," said Jeff Zeglin, whose company just celebrated its 39th year in business. "We feel for the employees who lost their jobs."

Zeglin, whose company operates stores in Davenport and Moline, added that the closing comes at a time when "the appliance industry is alive and well. I expect that the size of their showrooms and the furniture created some of the problem."

"I can't imagine going through that economy having 100,000 square feet of furniture on display," Zeglin said. "Working appliances are a necessity. Worn-out furniture is not a necessity." 

According to the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, American announced last March that it was discontinuing sales of a number of small electronics items, including computer, cameras and car audio systems. At that time, a company official said it would convert the space to demonstrate new technologies and increase furniture display space.

In June 2011, American TV announced its departure from the St. Louis market, citing the down economy for the closing of four stores and a distribution center there.

American was founded in 1954 by television repairman Ferd Mattioli, brother of Len Mattioli, who took over his brother's TV store in 1970, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Len Mattioli, known for his signature "Crazy TV Lenny" persona in radio and TV ads, grew the store over the next few decades. He sold his controlling interest to Reuhl over a 10-year period ending in 2001, AP reported.

(The Wisconsin State Journal and Associated Press contributed to this report.)