Don’s Appliances Owners Operate the Family Business with a Charitable Conscience
By Colleen Ferguson / Photograph by Michael Fornataro
Sponsored by CONSOL Energy
Growing up as a part of Don’s Appliances’ legacy, there was an unspoken understanding that the five brothers would join the local, family-operated appliance powerhouse when the time was right. “When I graduated from college, I think my dad assumed I was going to join the business. I don’t know if that’s what I thought then,” he laughs, “but, it’s been good.”
Don Hillebrand founded Don’s Appliances in Upper St. Clair in 1971. He pioneered the business from the linoleum tile up, running service repair and installation calls during the day and selling appliances from a 1,000-square-foot warehouse at night. Don opened a second location in McMurray in the early ‘80s, and now, the appliance empire spans five locations with all five of Don’s sons on board. “It’s great to work with family every day,” say the Hillebrands. “There are ups and downs — there’s no doubt about that. But, the wheel rolls with all five of us doing what we do every day.”
Tim, Don’s eldest son, serves as head of sales and sits on charitable boards alongside his wife, Ami. The couple met through a blind date and discovered they had an entrepreneurial upbringing in common. Just shy of his 30th anniversary at Don’s Appliances, Tim is grateful to share his life’s work with the love of his life.
The couple’s average day begins at 7 a.m. when they drop their 12-year-old son, Luke, off at the bus stop. Then, Tim commutes to the new Don’s Appliances showroom in Robinson. This location houses the company’s corporate offices; warehousing; delivery and installation; and a state-of-the-art working appliance experience center, where Corporate Chef Anthony Marino demonstrates cooking techniques on the showroom’s many culinary gadgets. His commute is consumed by business calls from sales managers, vendor representatives, and advertisers before he arrives.
Simultaneously, Ami keeps busy with nonprofit meetings and caring for their two six-month-old Brittany Spaniel puppies. Her background as a PTA parent led her to her involvement in this year’s Washington Health System Charity Ball on April 11. For the second year, she will serve as the co-chair of the “James Bond”-themed event at Southpointe Golf Club, which will raise funds for the Washington Health System School of Nursing Simulation Lab. The $780,000 project will feature lifelike mannequins to recreate realistic scenarios and patient interactions. “It’s along the same concept of flight simulation, where you need ‘x’ amount of simulation hours before you can fly a plane,” explains Ami. “The lab teaches nurses how to respond.”
Tim serves on the boards of the Western Pennsylvania American Cancer Society, National Kitchen & Bath Association, and the Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh. Being able to organize fundraising, charity, and member events for each is just another way to put the lessons he learned from his father into action. “My dad instilled a very good work ethic in us,” says Tim. “You can have fun, but you need to work hard in order to do so.”
This message, along with the importance of keeping family first, has continued to be passed on to Tim and Ami’s son. These values, paired with the team’s “positively outrageous customer service,” ensure the family business will continue to excel for generations to come and improve the lives of other families throughout the community.
“We want to be best in class,” says Tim. “When somebody buys an appliance in Pittsburgh, we want to be their first choice.”
For tickets to the Washington Health System Charity Ball, visit 3207.thankyou4caring.org/givenow.