Imagine driving down a street that you used just about every single day for the last 10 years and suddenly seeing a sign that you had never noticed before… one that says ‘Sewing Center’.
Well, that’s exactly what happened to me about a year ago. Eve and Dave’s Sewing Center is tucked away in a strip mall on one of the busiest streets in Ft. Lauderdale.
The only excuse I have for not noticing the sign before is probably because I was either lucky enough to catch the light every single time I drove through, talking with someone in the car with me, distracted by a telephone conversation or just plain not paying attention.
Of course, when I did notice Eve and Dave’s Sewing Center I made a hasty U turn and went inside. I tell you… this place is a sewing machine enthusiasts dream come true.
It’s one of those small shops that is crammed with sewing machines old and new… almost all in there for repair and a few for sale.
A Bit of History
Dave Santos, the proprietor, explained that when he started working at this location, he was hired as an employee – the repairman – in a Brother sewing machine dealership.
Dave didn’t get his start working on sewing machines at this South Florida Brother dealership. In fact, his career as a sewing machine repair professional began in New York much, much earlier.
When he was just a child, Dave’s older brother, Paul, worked in a Manhattan sewing machine repair shop. Like many children, Dave liked hanging out at his brother’s place of work after school.
The manager took a liking to the inquisitive nine year old and taught him how to lubricate sewing machines. The manager paid Dave $1 from his own pocket for lubricating sewing machines and sweeping the shop after school until he was old enough to work legally.
When he turned 14, the manager urged him to get his work permit and the rest as they say is history. He was hired at the age of 14 at a whopping salary of $37 per week and immediately learned how to repair, service and clean sewing machines.
Because he was so young, Dave had no responsibilities, and therefore was able to save his entire pay check. As soon as he was old enough to drive, he got his driver’s license and bought himself a car. What else would a 16 year old kid with a fat bank account [by 60’s standards] do?
From then on, sewing machines were Dave’s primary career focus. Along the way, he worked as a musician and travelled the world, playing Latin Rock and Top 40, performing at local venues, wedding receptions and opening for a few notable celebrities, but sewing machine repair was his enduring profession.
After Dave moved from New York to South Florida, he went to work as the sole repairman for the Brother sewing machine dealership in Fort Lauderdale where he worked on every brand of sewing machine known to mankind for 17 years.
When the owner was ready to retire, he gradually liquidated the inventory of new sewing machines and rewarded Dave for his many years of loyal service by turning the repair business over to him.
Dave and his wife, Eve, established a corporate identity and that’s when Eve and Dave’s Sewing Center came into being.
Fast Forward to the Present
Eve and Dave’s Sewing Center is one of the only authorized Brother repair facilities in southeast Florida.
They have been operating in the same location for the last seven years, putting owners of vintage sewing machines out of their misery by fixing their machines while at the same time helping them troubleshoot an anticipate problems before they happen.
One day while I was in the shop, Dave got a telephone from a frantic person in Key West – a four hour drive away. The person on the other end of the phone was concerned that they would not be able to reach the shop before closing time.
Can you imagine driving four hours to have your sewing machine repaired? That’s nothing new for Dave. He pointed out that some of his customers come from as far away as Brazil. Now that’s what I call customer loyalty!
One thing I observed while reviewing sewing machines at Eve and Dave’s Sewing Center that I must admit I have not really seen much of with other sewing machine repair providers is the fact that Dave takes an extraordinary amount of time with each individual customer to explain exactly how their sewing machines or sergers work and the very best way to get the most out of them.
Because of space limitations, Dave does not repair machines that cannot be taken to the shop. He works with a contractor, Mario, who makes house calls. I can tell you from personal experience that Mario knows his stuff.
He came to my house to service my industrial Singer 20U and did a fantastic job. The prices are very reasonable too.
You might expect to pay as much as a couple of hundred dollars for someone to come to your house and service a commercial sewing machine, but this house call cost less than $100. When it comes to sewing machines, Dave is a walking encyclopedia.
He has been working on sewing machines for so long, he has literally seen them all… from the treadle and hand cranked models that produce straight stitches only to the super duper computerized sewing, quilting and embroidery machines that are capable of giving you an infinite number of stitches and embroidery designs.
Advice from a True Sewing Machine Expert
According to Dave, the most reliable sewing machines are the ones made in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan.
He advises everyone to steer clear of any sewing machine made in China, regardless of brand. Dave ranks Brother/Baby Lock, Janome and Bernina as the top three manufacturers when it comes to user friendliness.
Like me, he is a firm believer that any sewing machine made prior to the mid-late 1980s is superior to most sewing machines being made today. There are, of course exceptions.
One reason for this conclusion is the built in obsolescence that comes with any computerized sewing machine or serger. As technology evolves… so will computerized sewing machines, sergers and software packages.
Dave and I agree that if you want to make an investment in a sewing machine or serger that will last for generations like the machines our grandmothers used, your best bet is a mechanical machine that is made from metal.
Although there are a few new models on the market that meet that criteria, the biggest inventory of metal mechanical sewing machines can be found in shops like this.
I couldn’t help but ask Dave to tell me what he thought was the greatest sewing machine on the planet. You should have seen his face light up when he said “the Singer 401-403-404 series”.
He said these machines have steel construction, fully automatic built in stitches and a direct drive motor. I had the pleasure of reviewing one of these machines –a 403a Slant-O-Matic and I must say, I was impressed by the quality of the stitches.
It was a bit challenging to use, only because I had become accustomed to pushing a button or turning a dial to access decorative stitches. The quality of the stitches was well worth the trip down memory lane.
His second favorite is the Singer 201 straight stitch machine with direct drive. According to Dave, this semi-commercial machine can sew ‘just about anything’ although it is not recommended for very heavy fabric like sailcloth or very thick leather.
Eve and Dave’s Sewing Center is not just a sewing machine repair facility. Dave also sells high end thread, sewing machine accessories as well as reconditioned, refurbished sewing machines and sergers.
His sales inventory comes from thrift shop finds, machines that come in for repair and are never picked up and machines that are brought in for repair but abandoned when owners decide they would rather purchase a new machine than pay to have their old machines refurbished or repaired.
Eve and Dave’s Sewing Center is one of those places where connoisseurs of vintage sewing machines simply loves to just hang out.
The very nature of the business number and types of sewing machines that you will find on any given Friday is different from the previous Monday.
If you are ever in the West Palm Beach/Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area, and have a couple of hours to just drop in and just say hello, you will be amazed at what you will see there.
The address is 179 East Oakland Boulevard. You can reach Dave by telephone at 954.564.2557 Monday through Saturday from 10:30AM until 6:00PM. If he’s not there, his brother, Paul will be there to greet you and to answer all of your questions.
Dave pointed out that he knows he will never become a millionaire working at Eve and Dave’s but he loves what he does and quickly added that he’s comfortable and smiled as he said “I have no stress. I’m a happy man.” Now how many people can say that?