When Lawrence Schleter took his first job in an Ohio sewing machine store back in the 1960s, he had no idea that it would be the beginning of a sewing dynasty.
Two of his four children followed him in the sewing machine industry and now, nearly 50 years later, this single dad is the patriarch of a family that owns three separate sewing machine dealerships.
Lawrence’s son, Randy and his wife and sons own and operate Stuart Sew and Vacuum in Jensen Beach, and is daughter, Laura, is the owner of two stores, one in Palm Beach Gardens and another in Port St. Lucie. All four stores owned by the Schleter family are located on the east coast of Florida.
Lawrence began his career in the sewing machine industry in the mid-1960s and learned everything there was to know about the business under the tutelage of his employer and mentor Tom Saunders.
Lawrence’s first experience in the sewing and vacuum business was repairing vacuum cleaners in his hometown of Cincinnati. It wasn’t long, however, before he was trained in servicing and repairing Bernina sewing machines.
Along the way, Lawrence married and had four children. Tom eventually moved to Florida, and in 1971, Lawrence packed up his young family and once again joined Tom – this time in a Singer dealership located in Boca Raton.
In 1978, Lawrence struck out on his own with a Riccar dealership located in the Lantana Shopping plaza. Eventually, he expanded his inventory to include Husqvarna/Viking sewing machines along with a wide range of vacuum cleaners, and sewing machine accessories and notions. Classes were added as well as an expansive service department.
To be closer to his clientele and to be gain access to more accessible parking, the Factory Sew-Vac moved to its present location on Lantana Road in 2005.
The Factory Sew-Vac is thriving in its easy to access location. Not only can you purchase brand new Husqvarna/Viking sewing, quilting and embroidery machines, you can also purchase one of the many used and completely refurbished machines in the inventory.
If you are interested in an industrial sewing machine, there is a large selection to choose from as well. In addition to new Husqvarna/Viking home sewing machines and sergers, the Factory Sew-Vac carries an inventory of Consew, Real and Tacsew industrial machines as well as other lesser known industrial sewing machine brand names.
On the used machine side, I saw Necchi, Singer, Pfaff, White and Baby Lock just to name a few. Each and every used machine that is offered for sale by the Factory is completely refurbished and thoroughly checked out by Lawrence and his sole staff person, Jeff, a veritable whiz when it comes to sewing machines and vacuum cleaners.
In addition to all these great sewing machines, the Factory Sew-Vac is also a source for Horne and Koala sewing room furnishings – cabinetry, storage units and sewing machine tables of all types and sizes.
There are also wall displays, and racks filled with threads, zippers, buttons and sewing notions to meet any sewing room need as well as a very interesting collection of sewing reference and instruction books.
I observed a number of customers come in with all sorts of sewing machine and vacuum cleaner questions and/or problems. In each case, both Jeff and Lawrence made the customer feel as though they were the only people in the room.
They not only give the kind of personal service one became accustomed to many years ago, they were able to answer each and every single question without hesitation or having to refer to a manual or website.
I watched Jeff sit down with a customer and very patiently show her every aspect of how to use an embroidery machine that she was considering.
Although the Factory has scaled back the number of classes offered, anyone who purchases as sewing machine of any type has the benefit of taking classes to learn all there is to know about their acquisition for as long as they own the machine.
In addition, the Factory has an embroidery club which meets every month on the third Saturday when they work on a different project each month. At each meeting, club members bring the projects they’ve been working on to show and share with the rest of the group.
The repair department is by far the most well organized repair facility I have ever seen. Lawrence proudly displayed a series of cabinets and drawers where he has every imaginable sewing machine and vacuum cleaner part on the earth.
He has an extremely impressive collection of needles, bobbins, belts, light bulbs and other sewing machine accessories at his fingertips.
While visiting the Factory, I decided to purchase some needles for my Singer industrial sewing machine. Without the slightest hesitation, Lawrence went to one of the many drawers and withdrew a box filled with needles to fit my machine.
He then asked me which size I wanted and promptly presented me with it. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to sewing machine accessory departments in search of needles for this machine only to be told that there were none in stock or that there was only one size needle available in the entire inventory that would fit my machine.
This is but one example of the quality of service anyone who shows up at the Factory Sew-Vac can expect to receive. On my each of my visits to the Factory, I have witnessed this same level of service time and time again.
In addition to superior customer service, Lawrence proudly proclaimed that since opening its doors back in 1978, the Factory has served more than 150,000 clients.
He added that his next proudest accomplishment is the fact that after the end of his marriage, he raised his four children alone and that each of them is a truly remarkable person.
I can surely attest to the fact that two of them are definitely remarkable. I have met and gotten to know his son, Randy and Laura, his daughter, and they are both treasures to work with.
I am lucky to have met this amazing family and eagerly look forward to visiting their stores over and over again in the years to come.
Anyone who wants to contact Lawrence or Jeff at the Factory Sew-Vac can drop by the shop Monday through Saturday. The doors are open from 9:00AM until 5:00PM Monday through Friday and 9:00AM until 4:00PM on Saturday.
The store is located in Lake Worth Florida at 6680 Lantana Road. The telephone number is 561.935.3761 and you can find them on the web.