We switched to buying a cheaper model that we'd buy once a year. We were even able to find a model at Downer Hardware we liked, which made me especially happy, as we were helping one of our neighbors. The machine would usually die every winter, due to massive salt intake, but it was a cost of doing business.
Then Jane suggested Mequon Vacuum Cleaner Center. I was heading north to sit down with a restaurant for an upcoming event (a dinner with BBQ expert Meathead Goldwyn at Atlas BBQ in Grafton) and decided to pay a visit, especially because Jane promised me that the store also had a vacuum cleaner museum. And yes, they do feature a lot of historical models on display.
Riccar, an industrial model that is actually made in Missouri, about 100 miles from St. Louis. Many of the parts that are plastic in most cleaners are still made of metal in Riccars. But the big selling point was clogging. I read an exhaustive article testing vacuums and the Riccar didn't make the cut for best vac because it was heavy to take up stairs and didn't twist very well, which were both requirements that were not of interest to us. But it has a system that can bypass clogs by sending larger pieces of debris (like salt!) straight though to the bag, avoiding the fan.
There is another Riccar dealer in the area, Brookfield Vacuum Cleaners. I'm sure they are great too! I remember when I first moved to Milwaukee and would get my old metal Royal Dirt Devil repaired for as little as five dollars on North Avenue, a block west of Oakland. How convenient would that be! And yes, I have become my father, who liked to talk about his five cent hot dog, which on Tuesdays included a root beer.