'There's the TikTok guy': Smiths Falls appliance retailer builds global following

McMullan appliances
Corey McMullan (left) and his brother Kyle are part of the family appliance business that's been a fixture in Smiths Falls for 31 years. Photo courtesy McMullan Appliance & Mattress

Corey McMullan might look more like your friendly neighbourhood appliance salesman than an international social media star, but don’t let his aw-shucks appearance fool you.

The Smiths Falls retailer, who runs family-owned McMullan Appliance & Mattress with his dad Brian and brother Kyle, is a bona fide TikTok sensation. 

Since posting his first video on the site in March, McMullan has gained nearly 44,000 followers, and his posts – which focus on anything and everything to do with appliances – have generated nearly half a million likes. 

@mcmullanappliance

Reply to @manofsteel519 #appliances #washer #washingmachine #vintage #maytag #huebsch #speedqueen #madeinusa #retail

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Whether it’s explaining to viewers why they should never soak sponges in fabric softener and throw them in the dryer or comparing a 1976 Maytag washer with a brand-new model from Huebsch – that post alone garnerned a whopping 45,000 likes – McMullan’s folksy style has won over fans from around the world and earned him full-fledged celebrity status in his hometown.

“I walk into the local store and they yell, ‘There’s the TikTok guy,’” he says with a chuckle.

The family business has been a fixture of the town’s retail scene since it opened in 1990. But McMullan says sales have gone through the roof during the pandemic as housebound consumers upgraded their stoves, fridges and other appliances, “and TikTok just brought up the curve a little bit more.”

“The door swings and the phone rings constantly,” he explains. “You can’t keep people out of the store.”

"You can’t keep people out of the store."

McMullan, who spent 17 years in the Toronto area as director of appliances at Canadian buying and marketing group Cantrex Nationwide before returning to Smiths Falls in 2018, says he started shooting the 30-second spots when he realized the store was “starving for video content” on other digital marketing platforms such as Google and YouTube.

While the videos didn’t gain much traction on those sites, McMullan soon found his niche on TikTok, where his short, snappy posts were the perfect fit. 

His first video explaining how to barbecue wings demonstrated his creative flair for the medium with audience-friendly touches such as a graphic of a dancing chicken. It quickly went viral, and before McMullan knew it, outdoor grills were the hottest item in his store.

@mcmullanappliance

#napoleon @napoleonproducts #grill #grilling #bbq #madeincanada #canadian #mcmullan #appliances #canada #ontario #shoplocal #chickenwings

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“We sold out of barbecues before the season even started,” he says.

The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since. McMullan says he’s fielded requests for appliances from “every state you can think of” south of the border and as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

While conceding it’s just not practical to ship bulky items such as dryers and fridges that far, McMullan says the TikTok campaign has attracted a few long-distance customers. 

500-km drive

One man recently drove nearly 500 kilometres from the southern Ontario town of Paris to buy a washing machine from McMullan’s store, and just this week he got a call from someone in Nova Scotia looking to pick up a washer.

“We’ll tell people, ‘There’s probably 20 stores between us and where you are where you can find these,’” McMullan says. “But they’re sold. They like the videos, and believe it or not, they really want to support you. It doesn’t make sense to really (drive) that far, but hey, if he pulls a truck up to my dock and wants to buy a washer, I’ve got no problem with it.”

McMullan thinks it’s his genuine enthusiasm for the industry that resonates most with his followers. 

“I’ve always loved video, video editing, photography and I’ve always been in this industry,” he says. “I think about it on a real passionate level and how appliances affect people, and I just think all that came together.”

Still, he seems slightly bemused by his sudden celebrity status, adding he has no plans to quit his day job.

“If we weren’t getting local business from it, I probably wouldn’t push it as much,” he says. “As flattering as it is, my primary job is running a retail store. I’m not a TikTok influencer sitting at home and waiting for my next offer to come through.”