After 18 years of operating Vac & Dash, Asciutto talks future of business, his career

When Peter Asciutto was in school at South Florida Junior College and later at Troy State University in Alabama, his initial plan was not necessarily to go into business. He really wanted to pursue a career in education.

At several points in his life, he has considered becoming a teacher, including right before he opened Vac & Dash in 2004, when he spoke with several school officials about the county’s lateral entry program.

After 18 years of owning and operating his successful vacuum cleaner  and running business, which has become a mainstay within the downtown Albemarle community, Asciutto is switching gears.

He will become a high school teacher at Anson High School in Wadesboro. He will begin new teacher orientation Aug. 8 and will teach either social studies or CTE courses.

With his new job comes the fact that after almost two decades at the helm of Vac & Dash, the business will soon be under new ownership. In an interview with The Stanly News & Press, he declined to go into specifics but said that come June, a new owner will be taking over.

Peter Asciutto

While he’s loved managing Vac & Dash and forming relationships with his many customers over the years, Asciutto said his responsibilities as store owner, combined with his role as county commissioner and the extra stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, have gradually taken a toll on him. Little things that would usually be no problem, such as procuring an order of Oreck vacuums or getting 500 shirts printed for an event, have started to cause him some anxiety.

“It was just a lot on my plate and was wearing me out,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Man, I’m 63 years old, not quite ready to retire, but I need to start looking ahead. And five years from now, do I still want to be doing this store stuff, where you’re working 365 days of the year?’ ”

About his new position

Wanting a “fresh environment” where he could feel re-energized but would also have more time to pursue interests like playing disc golf and visiting family in Florida and long-time college friends, Asciutto decided on teaching.

“I’m really excited and totally looking forward to doing this,” Asciutto said about his career change.

Teaching also happens to be in his blood as his son Gregory is an English teacher at Garringer High School in Charlotte. Asciutto also did some substitute teaching in the 1980s.

He did not apply for a position within Stanly County Schools because he wanted to avoid any potential conflicts of interest with his role as a county commissioner.

“Suppose I took a job teaching at West Stanly High School and then we (county commissioners) had to make some sort of decision that impacted the high schools and impacted one more than the other, it would be a huge conflict of interest,” Asciutto said.

He looked at a few different school districts before deciding on Anson County Schools as Asciutto sensed the close-knit feel of the system reminded him of Highlands County Schools in Florida.

“I wanted to teach in a community where everybody knows everybody,” he said.

And he wanted to teach older students since he worked with so many of them over the years at Vac & Dash.

“One thing I learned about the high school kids that worked with me: do not underestimate the abilities of teenagers,” he said. “You don’t underestimate how good they are and how they can produce and how they can come up with fresh ideas.”

He knows many people his age are retiring, but he is excited for his new challenge. Asciutto would like to teach for at least five years.

“I’m beginning my teaching career when most of my friends that have been in the teaching industry for decades are retiring,” he said.

‘I love everything about Vac & Dash’

Despite his upcoming 30-minute daily trek to the school, Asciutto plans to continue living in Albemarle and will remain on the Board of Commissioners.

Though Vac & Dash will more than likely be under new ownership, he expects nothing about the store will change in any significant way.

“With me going to teach, the business is not going away,” he said.

The store has gradually been shifting away from the vacuum and bike portion of business and focused more on screen printing, running shoes and disc golf.

“I love everything about Vac & Dash,” he said, noting he appreciates the impact his business has had on so many people, including many runners in the area. “There’s so much history behind the store after 18 years.”

The community has reciprocated the love, coming to cherish Asciutto and his dogged determination over the years to do whatever he could to help elevate and promote the downtown and its many businesses. He was even voted NC Main Street Champion by the Albemarle Downtown Development Commission in 2019.

“Peter Asciutto has been a tremendous asset to Downtown Albemarle,” said Main Street manager Joy Almond, who is also director of the ADDC. “I’ve found Peter to be very generous in the giving of his time, resources and energy to make our corner of the world a better place. His spirit for community is contagious. ”

Over the years, Vac & Dash has cultivated quite the reputation for its eclectic inventory.

“Thinking back,” he recently posted on Facebook announcing his career change, “when I opened my dream, for the first four or five years people would often say, ‘What is Vac & Dash?’ Fast Forward to today — the Vac & Dash brand is not only well known throughout the region, this little store is nationally known in both vacuum cleaner and running industries. That is pretty cool.”

When many people think of the store, they likely imagine all the many races Asciutto has organized and hosted over the years, such as the annual Fellowship of the Idiots race, where people run 19.7 miles from the YMCA to the top of Morrow Mountain and back.

Now that he will have more free time, Asciutto is looking forward to running more himself — something he’s not done as much of over the past two decades.

“For the last 20 years almost, my hobby has been my business,” he said.

He’s now looking forward to simply running in local races as opposed to organizing them.