Augusta business makes old vacuums useful again

Mark Branum refurbishes vacuums that were returned to retail stores.

A local business is taking recycling seriously.


Mark Branum, the owner of Branum Sewing & Vacuum, runs a large side business refurbishing vacuums that were returned to retail stores.

"Same product, half the price," Branum said.

The project began in 2002, when Branum toured a vacuum supplier in Ohio and saw the large number of returned vacuums that were automatically sent to the landfill.

He asked whether they had ever thought of recycling the good parts and making new vacuums out of them, but the process was not something the distributor was interested in.

"I saw what they weren't doing," Branum said.

Now, his business obtains cast-off vacuums for only the price of freight to the warehouse on Old Savannah Road in the old Augusta Mill Supply building.

The vacuums are disassembled and cleaned, and each part is rigorously tested.

"We run under the same guidelines as new product assembly lines do," Branum said.

Broken parts are discarded, and the vacuums that come off the lines are tested and inspected more than the ones that came from the factory, he said.

Although Branum does sell some of his refurbished vacuums in his retail store on Washington Road and at community events, the bulk of his products are sold to retailers such as Frye's Electronics and Mar-Becks Appliances as "factory refurbished" vacuums.

He estimates that an average of 4,000 vacuums go through the facility per month. These vacuums all would have gone to recycling centers, but now 95 percent of the materials wind up as fully functional vacuums.

"It's a big deal for these companies to say they're green," Branum said.

Hoover, Dirt Devil and Germ Guardian vacuum brands can't take the time to refurbish and sell their returned vacuums, but Branum said he's grateful for the chance to jump in and make some money in a creative way.

"If you're talking about a billion-dollar company and you get their crumbs, that's not bad," he said with a laugh.

Branum's facility employs 10 people, but that can fluctuate with the work load.