History of The Tolson Experience
The Tolson experience was formed more than a century ago. Tolson’s is a store that has been infused with a winning combination of local flavor, military service, and family participation for many years. It is not simply a store with 72 years of selling appliances. At Tolson’s you can buy appliances for any budget; ranging from the entry level models to the most elite brands the industry has to offer. Customers frequent our store and purchase with us, largely because of our staff. Tolson employees know that customer service and customer satisfaction is always the top priority. Our store has a unique blend of impeccable products, AND the experience and talents of our employees, to provide the consumer with a gratifying experience.
The first Tolson store began in 1883 on the edge of the railroad tracks in Calverton, Virginia. It was a joint venture between Simpson and Bastable, who were brother-in-laws. The store was named “General Merchandise.” As typical for that day and age, a wide variety of items were sold such as materials, clothes, paint, hardware, groceries, wagons, buggies, fertilizer, and even coffins.
In 1928 the store was passed down to Samuel W. Simpson and he joined partnership with V.O. Jacobs. Simpson and Jacobs continued to sell the same products until the early 1930’s when Simpson died. Vincent Jacobs then added dairy and poultry feed to the list of inventory items. In August of 1944, a train with 12 carloads of gasoline overturned and burned the store. This terrible accident forced Vincent Jacobs to just sell feed. In 1945, Vincent Jacobs’s nephew, Vince Tolson, returned from the Pacific theatre after serving with the US Military in WWII. Vince Tolson spent a year working for Eastern Airlines before joining his uncle at the store in January of 1946. In 1947, Tolson bought half interest in the business and changed the name to Jacobs and Tolson.
Soon thereafter, they expanded the feed business adding hardware items and appliances by becoming a Frigidaire dealer. In 1948, Vince Tolson bought the remaining interest and renamed the store Tolson Feed and Hardware. In 1950, Tolson expanded the store warehouse space to add electrical and plumbing supplies. Nine years later, Tolson sold off the feed and hardware business to Grove’s Hardware in Remington, Virginia and Tolson Appliance Center was born. Tolson then purchased a piece of property at the corner of Garret and Shirley Avenue in Warrenton, Virginia. In 1960, this became the Tolson Plaza, which remains today.
With the newly expanded space and market, Tolson Appliance center sold a variety of appliance brands and then added vacuums to the portfolio. In 1964, Tolson incorporated the store. Through the years, Tolson Appliance Center grew its breath of products and clientele. The continued growth and sustainability of the store was a direct reflection of its employees. The store manager, James Brown, was an experienced, knowledgeable, hardworking manager devoted to customer service. His passion for the business was passed along to the next generation of employees. Ronnie Bell and Carroll Settle joined Tolson’s in the late 1970’s. A few years later, Alice Walther joined the front office and kept all the men in line. JB joined the Tolson team in the mid 1980’s. During the 70’s and 80’s, Tolson’s developed its outstanding reputation for service and support. That same tradition is fostered today by those four employees, in addition to some new faces.
In the 80’s, Vince Tolson sold the company to Mr. Fernandez. The store was moved from the Plaza further south on Shirley to what is now the RAC center. In 1988, the store was purchased by retired Brigadier General Church M. Matthews, Jr. Following a successful 25-year career in the US Army, General Matthews decided to plant his roots in Warrenton, Virginia. Gaining experience from consulting and a short stint in upper management with Vie de France, Church Matthews saw an opportunity in Tolson’s. With Tolson’s reputation and skilled employees, General Matthews took a solid small business and expanded it to serve the area’s market. He relocated the store from Shirley Avenue to Broadview Avenue in Warrenton. And with the assistance of Claude Ritchie and Bill Beals, he designed and built the new red-roofed building at today’s location, 470 Broadview Avenue.
In the newly expanded showroom, Matthews was able to offer additional moderate to high-end products to his customers. Complementing the appliance business, he opened a kitchen cabinet and design business, Warren Cabinets. While the business grew, Matthews also realized his employees were crucial to the business’s success and he offered healthcare plans for his employees. Both businesses soared under his command. Unfortunately, and quickly in 1996, he passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. The reigns of Tolson’s were then handed over to his wife Elizabeth “Wooz” Matthews.
With no business experience and certainly no appliance expertise, the store continued to grow, doubling its sales during Elizabeth’s 12-year tenure. She modernized the operation by bringing in computers to automate point of sale and inventories. The showroom was again expanded to bring in additional products for customers. Additional vendors, such as Miele, were added to give our customers further luxury and choice. In 2007, after 12 years, Wooz decided to take on new challenges, becoming Registrar for the North American Devon Association and working with her own cattle operation on Thistle Hill Farm. She handed the reigns over to her son Church Matthews III.
Church had followed in his Father’s footsteps to West Point. Having graduated in 1985, he was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas. After a 5 year commitment, Church decided to cut his teeth in the civilian sector at Abbott Laboratories in the area of in-vitro diagnostics. He continued this even after he took charge of Tolsons and Warren Cabinets from his Mother. The next 12 years has seen many changes for the store. In 2013 we saw a renovation project inside the store to bring it up to date in appearance on the interior. The carpet was replaced with polished concrete and the displays were updated with new cabinets and the ability to show more appliances. Cosmetics were not the only change. There has been a wholesale changeover in personnel as well. The entire staff except for JB Brown has been replaced. The Company has been infused with “can do” people whose soul mission is to provide a customer experience like no other.
In 2019, we changed our business model. The marketplace had become more transactional. This is not a market we could compete in. Tolsons joined a buying cooperative that now allows us to compete directly with Lowes and Home Depot 99% of the time. In fact, we are more competitive because we deliver and install our own appliances as well as offer limited services. It is not farmed out like the box stores. This business model also allows us to order non-stocked items twice weekly so our turn around from purchase to delivery is that much quicker.
2019 saw our business takeoff. 2020 has been mixed with the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has not only affected our customers, but it impacted the store as well. We saw a drastic drop in sales in the February March timeframe. Since April 2020, that trend has been reversed and we are selling more than we ever have. We realize that there are still many areas of improvement. We are transforming our business through updating software, finding the best products at the most competitive prices, and developing a superior service department. Our plan is to grow our business one customer at a time.
We proudly serve the areas of Warrenton, Culpeper, Gainesville, Haymarket, The Plains, Marshall, Middleburg, Amissville, Washington, Bristow, Nokesville, Sperryville, Rixeyville, Midland, Catlett, Casanova, Upperville, Bealeton, Jeffersonton, Goldvein, Sumerduck, Rectortown, Old Tavern, Ada, Delaplane, Markham, Flint Hill, Huntly, Remington, Opal, New Baltimore, and Vint Hill Farms in Virginia.
Shop smart. Shop local. Tolson Appliance Center has been proud to serve the community since 1883.
The right staff can make all the difference. We are committed to providing you with the best service.
We offer a wide range of quality appliances from nationally recognized brands you can trust.
Shop with confidence. If you find a lower price somewhere else, we’re happy to price match it.
Visit our state-of-the-art showroom and get the Tolson experience. We’re proud to have a professional and friendly team that not only provide quality service but are also experts in their fields.