Almost seventy years ago, right around the start of WWII and when
Austin’s population was just over 100,000, Fred McNairs’ grandfather, a
banker from Kansas City, MO, moved to Texas for its climate and growth.
After a short stop of six months in San Antonio, Fred Ruegg bought into
the only available appliance franchise at the time in Austin, Norge,
and opened a store on the west side of the 500 block of Congress. The
store was moved in the years to follow to West Fifth Street and then to
a third location at 904 Lamar.
In 1950, the family moved from Avenue G to the newly-developing
Allandale, where young Fred McNair would go out hunting for rabbits and
field mice up behind the old printing plant on Steck Avenue. The street he
lived on, Hancock Drive, was no more than a country lane with bar
ditches on both sides. And Anderson Lane had so many 90 degree turns
that people regularly drove through the barbed wire into the fields.
In 1970, the family decided to take a chance and built their first
building at its current location on 6225 Burnet Road. It was either
going to be their best or worst decision, but they decided to go for
broke. That first Saturday when the store opened turned out to be best
day in the store’s history.
January, 2008 marks the unveiling of a new McNairs, which is now part
of KIVA Kitchen & Bath. KIVA started as an appliance store in 1992
by Tolar Hamblen and business partner, James Cozby and has since grown
into a $100+ million business with eight showrooms in Texas and four in
California. McNairs, acquired in 1999, is being folded under the single
name, but the McNairs name will be used in tandem for many years into
This acquisition appears to be working as it marries similar
operating philosophies – where a knowledgeable staff will make you one
of its many repeat customers. The same managers have stayed on, and the
professionalism is intact.
McNairs has always had a state-of-the-art showroom, but now it’s being
upgraded to offer one of the largest selections of designer quality
decorative plumbing fixtures, hardware, appliances, as well as cabinetry and
counter tops for the kitchen in Austin.
While their clients continue to be 75 percent commercial (architects,
custom home builders, remodeling contractors, decorators, and custom
cabinet manufacturers), it still caters to the discerning homeowners
whose kitchen and bath are the centerpieces of their home and who, like
me, drool at names like Sub-Zero, Wolf, Thermador, DACOR, Viking, Asko,
Bosch, and Vent-A-Hood.
Though their niche may be the high-end market, don’t let the $15,000
sub-zero refrigerator or the $40,000 copper bathtub stop you from going
in. They still carry GE,
Maytag, Whirlpool, and other brand names. Dreams can come true.
While KIVA’s associates are trained to talk to the architects or
home builders who come in with their blueprints or specs in technical
terms, they also have the patience and knowledge to want to help all.
For us residential buyers, spending some time here can save valuable
time, eliminating the need to go to several different stores.
The expanded showroom will be 11,500 square feet and will include
indoor and outdoor vignettes, EnergyStar® appliances, inspiring
bathroom displays, custom cabinets, and fun cooking demonstrations so
that you can experience first-hand the ultimate in innovative and
luxurious kitchen and bath design.
KIVA takes the time and effort to first train their sales associate so
that they tailor selections to your vision and lifestyle, even if you’re just
shopping for an extra refrigerator for your garage – like I had to buy.
As they say: "The choice and style are all yours. We’re here to make it
McNairs Appliance Gallery – 6225 Burnet Road (454-4526) www.kivahome.com