SW corner of 1st & University
Champaign, Il 61820
217 359-4VAC (822)
open 9:15-5 Mon-Sat
closed Sundays & 6 major holidays
Serving CHAMPAIGN-URBANA since 1973

About Me

Name: John Byers
Byers Vacuum Cleaner & Sewing Machine Sales & Service, Inc.

77 E University (SW corner of first & University)

Champaign, Il 61820

217 359-4VAC (822)

     Hi, my name is John Byers and I'm in Champaign, Illinois. I'm a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ.  When I graduated from the U of I business school in 1971 I had no idea I was going to spend the next 50+ years in the vacuum cleaner business. There was a recession on and I wanted to stay in Champaign-Urbana, so the best job I could get was as a Field Sales Rep with Hoover, calling on all the stores in East Central Illinois. Since I like to take stuff apart and fix it, and I was appalled by stories I heard about poor customer service (one I remember was a woman who wanted the best vacuum she could get, so they sold her the most expensive vacuum they had, a self propelled Hoover upright. The problem was, she had bare floors, which this upright was not good at cleaning.) I decided to open my own store. I started accumulating trade-ins I bought from stores that ran trade-in sales. I arranged to rent space from the Arnolds, who had a furniture store @ 208 W Main, downtown Urbana. They had been the exclusive Hoover dealer in Urbana back when Hoover only had 1 dealer per town(Hoover abandoned that marketing plan in the 50's with the rise of the hardware chains). Since I had been indoctrinated by Hoover that they were by far superior to all other vacuums, the only new vacuums I sold at first were Hoovers. I soon found that in some instances, other vacuums actually worked better, and I widened my selection. As the technology changed, and new brands entered the market, I tried a number of them. Sometimes brands changed their quality level, like Panasonic and Hoover which used to be premium brands, and are now cheap Chinese products. I tried bagless when they first came out and found they were messy and leaked a lot of dust into the air. But no matter what brands we are selling, we guarantee what we sell, and will stand behind it, during and after the warranty. As many factories have closed and parts become unavailable for what were popular brands, we are more and more considering the likelihood of parts being available as criteria when we choose what to sell.

     In 1984 Mr Arnold sold the building and retired. I bought an old house at 1012 W University in Urbana. I chose it because I could afford it, it was zoned for business, was on a very busy street, had a gravel parking lot in back, and a garage to store old vacuums in. I had the lot paved, had some minor remodeling done and moved in.The building really was too small, but I stayed there for over 19 years. At times we turned away repairs because there was no more room for them. Aside from the garage in back full of old machines, I bought a 1000 sf warehouse east of town, plus I put up a small shed holding about 50 machines. Since many American factories have closed and parts for many older machines are no longer available we have hundreds of old vacuums we can scrap for parts.

     In 2003 I moved to my present location at the SW corner of 1st & University, right accross from Dallas & Co costume shop, the Cattle Bank museum, and the Champaign police station. We share the parking lot with Manzella's Italian Patio, who own the building. It is much larger than our previous locations, allowing us to offer a larger selection, and store a lot more repairs. With the 16' ceiling in the main building we can also display a lot of our antique vacuums.


     Enough about me. We  are here to help you keep your home or business clean. We do that by keeping your vacuum cleaner in good working order, or helping you find the new, rebuilt, or used vacuum that best meets your needs. We also rent the Host dry carpet cleaner and sell a number of different stain removers.


     We also repair a few hundred sewing machines a year.

Some Ramblings About Vacuums

   Some vacuums we sold for years and were quite happy with, like the Japanese made Panasonics. They've been out of production over 20 years, but if they reintroduced the 9500 series canisters today, at the same quality level, and I could sell them for under $600, I'd jump at the chance. The problem is that they were about half that when the dollar was worth over 230 yen to the dollar, when the dollar dropped to less than 100 yen, they would have had to sell for over $600 20 years ago, which is why they discontinued them. With todays costs they would probably be much more.

A Brief History of Vacuums and lots of Editorial Comments

     Before the electric vacuum, there were hand powered, and believe it or not, steam powered vacuums. Of course there was the broom, but that was not effective on rugs. Sometimes rugs were picked up and hung over a line and struck with a device called a carpet beater. If you've ever picked up a rug, you know how heavy they are, so that wasn't always practical with a rug of any size. The carpet sweeper, almost identical to those sold today, was a great help. Some vacuums, looking vaguely like modern "electric brooms", had a manual handle you pulled back to create a vacuum, kind of like drawing fluid with a baster or syringe, but much larger. There were also "canister" type vacuums where one or more people pumped and another used the hose to suck up the dirt. In London, a horse drawn steam powered vacuum pump(kind of like the horse drawn steam  fire engines you see in period movies) was pulled up in front of  the house and a long hose taken into the house to clean. Kind of like the modern carpet cleaning companies pulling their van up and running their long hose in. Around the turn of the century an office building was built with a built in central vacuum, much like the current ones except the vacuum was powered by the steam heating boiler rather than an electric motor(I wonder if they didn't vacuum all summer?).

     With the spread of electric lighting, came electric motor powered devices, like fans. James Murray Spangler worked in a store and sweeping up stirred up a lot of dust,  causing him breathing problems. So he took an electric fan, a soapbox, a broom handle, and a pillowcase to catch the dirt and invented the electric vacuum cleaner. It was such an improvement that he patented it, built a few, and set out to sell them. Salesman usually try to sell their relatives first, right? So he showed it to his relative, Mrs William Hoover. William "Boss" Hoover had a leather tanning business in New Berlin(now North Canton), Ohio. He saw the potential and bought Spangler's patents, hired Spangler as Superintendant, and started building the 40+ pound Hoover model 0 in 1908. After an ad in the Saturday Evening Post, it sold, and an industry was born. Lighter weight models soon followed. By WW1 numerous brands, such as Frantz, Premier, Royal, Eureka, and others were being manufactured, although Hoover had patented the motor driven rotating brush, so the others were suction only. In 1926 Hoover's patents on the rotating brush were expiring so he added the "beater bar", and the slogan "it beats as it sweeps as it cleans".



     Also in 1926, Airway Sanitizer patented the disposable paper filter bag, which fit a stick type vacuum called the Cricket. The filter paper leaked a lot less fine dust than the dump out cloth bag. Soon Airway was building a tank type vacuum with a hose that stood up in the middle of the room and the top swiveled, allowing the user to clean a large area without moving the vacuum. I have one on display pictured at right.

     Other tank type suction vacuums set on runners. Why not wheels? I don't know. In the 30's Filter Queen used a filter paper cone to reduce dust leakage, but you still had to dump the container full of dirt periodically. Rexair(now called Rainbow) ran the air accross a pan full of water, which trapped most of the water soluble particles, like pollen. Just before WW2 halted vacuum production, Hoover brought out a reusable dump out paper bag, they called the Handisac. It had an open top with a clip, and a cardboard reinforced bottom so it wouldn't tear. Of course as soon as Airways patents expired Hoover went to a regular disposable bag. By the mid 50's almost all household vacuums except Kirby, FQ, and Rexair, offered disposable bags. Kirby had a metal box with a door on the bottom under their bag, so instead of taking the cloth bag off, unclipping the top, and shaking it out, like other cloth bags, which was really messy, you put a newspaper down, swung the door open, and out came the dirt. You then closed the door, rolled the sweeper off, set another layer of newspaper on top of the dirt, rolled it up, and disposed of it. Later Kirbys even had a pocket with a scraper sewn in so you could scrape the dirt off the inside of the cloth without getting your hand dirty. But door to door competitors still sold a lot of their vacuums to Kirby owners by shining a bright light on the cloth bag and then turning on the machine and seeing all the dust that leaked out of the cloth. Kirby finally went to disposable bags in 1979.

     Back to WW2 era. While building war materials for the government, many manufacturers like Hoover also remanufactured old products in their factory. The government allocated scarce resources like metal for military supplies only, but Hoover could rebuild the motor, lubricate all the bearings, rebristle the brush, put on a new cloth bag, paint or polish the metal, and someone could have a servicable vacuum. I have been told by someone who worked for Hoover at that time, that after the war, when material to build new vacuums became available again, Hoover destroyed a warehouse full of old machines they were planning to rebuild, so no one could rebuild them or use parts. They wanted to sell new Hoovers. I cringed when I heard that.

     The early paper bags on uprights, like the cloth dump out bags, filled from the bottom. As they filled up, power was wasted pushing old dirt out of the way, and they could spill dirt back out if tilted forward when carried upstairs. Many manufacturers went to a bag with a paper tube that carried the dirt most of the way up  to the top and let it fall into the main part of the bag. This was a vast improvement. In the 60's, a few had a cardboard glued to the bag the dirt entered through. Eventually this design was used by most uprights.

     In those days most vacuums were metal, they were built in the US, and they used good quality components. Most of them were made to last decades with minor repairs. They had large direct air fans, which gave really good airflow at the rug. However they weren't perfect. The uprights did not have built in attachments(referred to now as OBT, On Board Tools), and except for the Hoover Dial-a-matic, did not have suction comparable to a canister vacuum with the optional hose. The disposable bags leaked less dust back into the room than the old style cloth bags, but still leaked invisible tiny dust particles that could bother people with asthma or dust allergies. In the late 70's and early 80's most metal in vacuums was replaced with plastic. This, in most cases, shortened their short term durability by making them a little more fragile, and killed their long term durability because many plastics become weaker with age, some even warp. Asian "clean air" uprights, which, like the Hoover Dial-a-matic, worked better with attachments, entered the market at this time, first Panasonic, then Riccar(American owned but built in Taiwan at that time), then Sharp. Building machines of this design in metal would have made them too heavy, and probably too expensive.

     In 1969 Hoover introduced the self-propelled version of the Dial-a-matic. This proved quite successful. Eureka, Singer, and Kenmore all offered self-propelled machines with less success. The self-propelled Dial-a-matic was succeeded by the Concept 1 in 1978. The Concept 2 was a 1 with a hand vac in the front. Then there was a Powermax upright that was a Concept with OBT. Then there was a souped up self-propelled version of the Elite called the Power Drive Supreme, which was replaced by the Windtunnel in the mid 90's. Kirby, which offers only 1 model at a time sold by in home demonstration introduced their self-propelled Generation 3 in 1989. It continues with minor changes today as the Avalir.

     In the mid-late 80's, some new design direct air uprights using far fewer screws than previous models were introduced which reduced manufacturing costs. In the late 80's Regina introduced a clean air upright with On Board Tools. Even though the quality of the machine was so bad that it was reported some chains had 30-50% return rates, the OBT feature was so popular that soon Dirt Devil, Hoover, Eureka, Panasonic, Kenmore and others introduced machines with OBT. Many of the early models were modified direct air designs that did not work efficiently with a hose. Also at this time, the American currency plummeted in value relative to the Japanese yen. Within a few years, Panasonic, Sharp, and Sanyo had bought or built factories in the US or Mexico, as costs of building a machine in Japan and selling it here were now too high.

     Also in the 80's Riccar introduced, for a household vacuum, "microlined" bags with an electrostatically charged liner that held finer dust than a conventional bag could hold. This technology had originally been used on commercial "toner vacs" that were used to clean laser copy machines, as the fine toner leaked through regular filter paper bags. We sold the Riccar bags, which also fit the Panasonics, but I really didn't fully understand or appreciate their advantage until the technology was adopted by larger manufacturers and customers told me how vacuuming didn't cause them or a family member to have breathing problems or sneezing fits any more. Since then, synthetic "HEPA" bags have been introduced that retain most fine dust down to .3 microns. Regular bags leak a majority of all dust under 10 microns, the microlined retain most dust down to 2 microns and a lot even smaller. Also "HEPA" filters (some meeting the true HEPA standard, many not) have been added to some vacuums to reduce dust emissions. Unfortunately, some of these were add ons to old designs, and some air leaks out unsealed areas rather than passing through the exhaust filter.

      In the 90's the Fantom, built first in Canada, then also in Buffalo, bagless vacuum, based on the English Dyson, was introduced. The original model had no filter and leaked so much dust that a $69 exhaust filter was soon introduced. The idea of not having to buy bags was popular(most machines in big box stores are now bagless, although surveys of those of us in the repair business find repairmen think bagged are more durable, less messy, and more economical) and within a few years most major manufacturers were offering bagless vacuums at lower prices than the Fantom, which forced them into bankruptcy soon after the turn of the century. Dyson then decided to enter the US market. He moved his manufacturing from England to Malaysia, which lowered his costs substantially. Instead of lowering his price, he embarked on a massive advertising campaign and soon captured a large share of the US market. Much of this share came from Hoover, which collapsed in 2006. Stock in the conglomerate that owned Hoover (and Maytag, Amana, and other brands), went from over $70 to under $10 and they were bought out for a little over $20 a share by Whirlpool, which sold Hoover to a Chinese holding company, TTI, for $107 million. TTI immediately gave Ohio the required 6 months notice they were closing the North Canton factories and the last US made Hoover rolled off the assembly line in July 2007. Except for some commercial machines and the Windtunnels, which are now being made in Mexico (UPDATE, some commercial Hoovers & Windtunnel uprights are now being made in the Oreck factory in Tennessee [NEWER UPDATE, those machines were all discontinued {as were most parts for them almost immediately. TTI does NOT support their products well}]), parts, other than bags, belts, filters, cords, and a few others, were discontinued. Repairing many older Hoovers is becoming harder, as old stocks of parts are used up. This is unfortunate because the older Hoovers were built to last a lot longer than newer ones. Competition from Dyson isn't the only reason Hoover collapsed. Eureka, Dirt Devil, and Bissell, the other big chain store brands, had all ready closed their American factories and were manufacturing in Mexico and asia, at a much lower cost than Hoover. However, Hoover sold more machines in the higher price range until Dyson took a big piece of that market away from them.

     One thing that bothers me about Dyson doing that, is that their marketing campaign was deceptive. They advertised that, unlike other vacuums, they had no bags or filters to clog. While that may have been true in their early days in England, a bagless cyclonic vacuum with no filters will leak fine dust worse than the old cloth dump out bags, so Dyson put 3 filters on their vacuums, which do clog and reduce airflow. In England the competition sued Dyson in court and won over his ad campaign. In the US, except for nutritional and medical claims(governed by the FDA), puffery(and in my opinion downright lies), are ignored. Let the buyer beware. We all know that drinking an energy drink won't give us wings, in spite of the cartoon guy growing wings and flying. We should know that using a certain cologne or after shave won't cause beautiful women to fall at our feet. But they sell an awful lot of those products. And James Dyson sounds so believable as he makes ridiculous(to those of us who know about vacuums)  claims about his vacuums. Until I got a Dyson in trade to show people, some people would walk out when I told them Dysons had filters, probably thinking that I'm the biggest liar they've talked to recently. After all, who are you going to believe, me, the local guy who sells a few hundred vacuums a year, or the millionaire on TV with the cool accent? Many people believe the millionaire on TV. Of course Bernie Madoff was a millionaire too (and a lot of people believed him). I keep some traded in Dysons around, so I'll be glad to show you the filters he claims he doesn't have, and a copy of the news story of the court decision in England. Also surveys in England about his worst of all brands repair record. Free advice (and worth every penny), don't believe everything in advertisements. Check it out and compare products before you buy.

      As I said earlier, most of the manufacturers that sell to chain stores,  like Eureka, Bissell, Dirt Devil, Hoover, and Dyson, moved their production to Asia and Mexico between 1989 and 2007. The door to door brands like Kirby, Aerus(formerly named Electrolux until they sold the name), Filter Queen, Rainbow, etc. are still built here, as price is not the primary factor, quality is. Oreck builds their 8-9 pound lightweight uprights in Cookeville, Tennessee. The Riccar and Simplicity uprights and very high end canisters are made in St. James, Missouri, although their cheaper canisters are imported. A small company, Metropolitan,makes some steel canisters in Suffern, NY. Until recently their power nozzles for the canisters were made for them in Ohio, but that factory closed and they now have a Chinese made power nozzle on their steel canister. As most production left the US, component suppliers (motors, switches, cords, bags) either went out of business or moved overseas to be near their customers. We try to buy American when we can.  I have nothing against people in other countries, although I may distrust the intentions of some of their governments. As long as trade is relatively even between countries, the standard of living of both will increase. When we run huge trade deficits, it is bad. We all want to raise our standard of living by paying less for things, but when that puts millions out of work, our taxes go up, services decrease, and we run huge deficits which will come back to haunt us in the future in vastly increased prices. Buy American when possible.


     There have been a number of robotic vacuums, like the Roomba, in recent years. These may be the wave of the future, but currently they don't clean anywhere near as well as real vacuums. Most are just motorized carpet sweepers, the few that also have suction have very little compared to full size 110 volt vacuums.

A thought or two to REALLY LIVE by

The Bible says, "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind". While we shouldn't be afraid of Covid19, we can act in love towards others by not doing things that might spread the disease(many healthy people can have Covid19 without manifesting symptoms). We can also pray for wisdom for our leaders. The Bible says we are to "lift up all those in authority". This was written at a time the Roman emperor was killing Christians, so whether or not one agrees with our leaders, we should pray for them to make the right decisions.




Jesus said "no one comes to the Father except through me" Many people say there are many ways to heaven, but that isn't what God's word says. Christ died for my & your sins, and rose from the dead so that we might have Eternal Life. Do you have eternal life yet? If you're not sure, this page from Campus Crusade for Christ may help.

My Church


      I am a member of Living Word (the geodesic dome building by the interstate in St Joseph). We are blessed with a pastor who has the gift of teaching. Services are normally at 9:30 on Sunday morning.  Due to the Corona virus, Wednesday night live services were cancelled, but have re-started on a limited basis(1st Wednesday of every month). On the other Wednesdays there is a new message from Pastor Mike available to watch on the internet (or later at your leisure). If you can't make it in person, Sunday's service is live streamed and also watchable later.  Living Word also emphasizes children's ministry, so bring the kids and ask an usher which classroom your child will be in. They'll learn Bible stories and memorize scripture.

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