Donald L. Merritt, Sr.
Donald L. Merritt, Sr. was born in Baltimore, MD, in 1944. Having worked most of his young life, Don realized as a teenager he wanted a career in the business world. In 1966, at the age of 21, he entered the wholesale vacuum cleaner and parts business. During this time, he was fortunate enough to meet a salesman named Ed Price. When Ed was promoted to sales manager, he offered Don a part of his territory. Don accepted and joined the Flicker Vacuum Cleaner Co.
His first sales territory was Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia. From there, he traveled to Pittsburgh, PA, Michigan, and Ohio. Don was on the road 16 nights a month and he soon became Flicker’s top salesman. In 1969, he was promoted to field sales manager and began working with the team in other parts of the country.
In 1972, Paul Genoa, the President of Flicker Vacuum recognized Don’s excellent sales ability, along with his work ethics and decided to further develop his management skills by enrolling him in the Success Motivation Institute. Upon successfully completing the course, Don was promoted to national sales manager and was now responsible for developing his own sales team all over the United States. IN 1972, Flicker invested in a southern California company called Louis Clark, Inc. In 1974, Genoa offered Don a position in California as executive vice president as well as an opportunity to purchase a portion of the company.
Over the years, the company grew and expanded its sales into other western states. To reflect the company’s growth, the name was changed to Gen Vac, and expanded to a full operation that included making cloth and vinyl zipper bags, refurbishing vacuum cleaners, and manufacturing Kirby, Eureka, and Hoover parts.
In 1985, Don was able to purchase 32 percent more of Gen Vac, becoming a full partner with Paul Genoa, his mentor and dear friend. Finally in 1987, Don purchased 100 percent of the stock, thus becoming the first African-American wholesale proprietor of vacuum cleaners and parts. The company has continued to grow strongly, representing most major manufacturers of vacuum cleaners.
Don is still actively involved in the business. He enjoys talking and visiting with his most loyal customers. Don is the first to acknowledge that a large part of his success is due to the hard work and dedication of his son, Donald Lee Merritt, Jr., executive vice president, and Rema Khubersian, his general manager, CFO, and very dear friend.
In 1994, Gen Vac’s name was changed to GV Wholesale Distributors to again reflect the company’s growth into other market segments.
2002 Vacuum & Sewing Hall of Fame Inductee