On the day I visited the Gold Coast Sewing and Vacuum Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, I took a step back in time. Don’t get me wrong. This was definitely a good thing.
With all the big box stores that are now selling sewing machines, it is indeed refreshing to be able to visit a real sewing machine dealer – one where sewing machines, sewing machine parts and accessories are the ONLY things available for sale.
Brad Parker, Gold Coast owner and manager is a third generation sewing business owner and to say the least, he knows his stuff in a way that many other sewing machine dealers can only aspire to achieve.
How It All Got Started
During the 1920s and 30s, Brad’s immigrant grandfather opened, owned and operated a garment factory in New York.
There were, in fact, two companies… Mighty Togs, where clothing items were made for women and children and the Model Glove Company that produced gloves for everyone.
Items sold in these two factories were sold in major department stores in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state area.
JC Penney and Macy’s were among the stores that carried these brands. There were many other department stores as well, most of which are now long gone.
After marrying his mother, Brad’s dad went to work in the factory as the sole mechanic, responsible for repairing the factory’s sewing machines and keeping them in tip top shape at all times.
Brad talked about how fascinating it was to watch his dad at work. There were 100 sewing machines, all going at once – all being run by one gigantic motor. Each machine had a separate belt that was attached to a pulley which was in turn connected to the motor.
As a machine went out of service, it was necessary for Brad’s dad briefly cut the power to all of the sewing machines, remove the belt of the machine that was giving them a problem, and switch the power back on.
The whole procedure took less than a few minutes. He repeated the process to put the machine back on line when the repair was completed.
Brad was only about 9 or 10 years old when he started helping his dad in the shop, first sweeping floors and then gradually learning to clean and repair the sewing machines himself.
Brad wasn’t certain of precise dates, but when his grandfather was ready to retire in the 1940s or 1950s, he sold the business to his dad. For a while, both factories continued to thrive.
However, as the availability of cheap imported clothes on the American market increased, the demand for higher quality, better made goods made in America continued to decline.
That, coupled with challenges associated with the labor union, led to his father’s decision to sell the business in the 1960s. He and his wife made the move to Florida in the 1970s.
One of the most powerful factors in making the choice to move to South Florida is to spend time with Florida family and/or friends during the winter months.
When Brad visited his parents one January, it didn’t take long for him to decide to make the move. He went back to New York and immediately put his affairs in order. He was a Florida resident about 30 days later.
After getting settled in his new home, Brad convinced his father to come out of retirement and together they opened a Singer sewing machine dealership in Lake Worth.
Before long, they opened a second store in nearby Riviera Beach. The two stores thrived until his father passed away 25 years later. That’s when Brad combined the inventories of both stores and moved to the present West Palm Beach location.
Where Things Are Today
The Gold Coast Sewing and Vacuum Center has been in the same location for 15 years now. The majority of machines sold at Gold Coast are commercial sewing machines, used by tailors, professional dressmakers and businesses that specialize in making upholstery, shoes, boat sails and the like.
The Gold Coast Sewing and Vacuum Center also has an impressive inventory of sewing machines and sergers for home use. Singer is the primary home sewing machine brand sold at Gold Coast.
I had a very interesting conversation with Brad about the Singer brand, its rise to the top of the home sewing industry and its decline to one of the least reliable sewing machines on the market.
The good news is the folks at SVP… Singer, Viking and Pfaff, the current Singer headquarters… recognize that there is a problem with consumer confidence and are taking steps to improve the quality of the machines it offers and to raise the brand’s credibility with home sewers.
He explained that Singer sewing machines and sergers are sold in three different categories… independent authorized dealers like himself, big box stores like Walmart and JoAnn fabrics and mail order which includes the internet and sources like the Home Shopping Network and QVC.
Naturally, the best machines the brand has to offer are sold by independent authorized dealers… the only source where people who purchase Singer sewing machines and sergers have access to personalized customer service, the ability to actually test the machine before taking it home and maintenance and repair services.
Anyone who purchases a machine online or from one of the big box stores knows that there is no opportunity for a hands on demonstration, no real customer service and no service after the sale is complete.
When purchasing a machine at a big box store or via the internet, you may save money, but you get what you pay for. Again… there is no customer service; nor do you have someplace to take your brand new machine if you encounter a problem with it.
As a personal observation… having done many, many reviews, I have discovered that in addition to personal hands on service, the Singer sewing machines and sergers offered for sale at an independent authorized dealer are superior in quality and workmanship to the models sold in big box stores and via the internet.
Gold Coast Sewing and Vacuum Center carries Consew, Juki and Tacony machines for commercial and home use as well as an extensive line of Singer sewing machines for the home.
The shop is also a great source for needles and presser feet of all kinds, needle plates for both home and industrial sewing machines and sergers, light bulbs, belts, bobbins, a variety of threads of all kinds and anything else you might need to keep your sewing machine running at its peak performance level.
It doesn’t matter if you work with the finest of silks or the toughest leather or canvas, you can find all of the needles, threads and sewing machine accessories you could possibly need at the Gold Coast Sewing and Vacuum Center.
You can tell simply by the number of extra large spools of thread that the majority of the Gold Coast customers are sewing industry professionals.
In addition to sewing machine sales, Gold Coast is also the place to go for sewing machine service and repair. With so many years’ experience, Brad explained that in order to keep up to date on the latest technology, he continues to take classes on sewing machine servicing and repair.
Not only is Brad able to repair any sewing machine that is brought into the shop, he also takes his skills on the road to service and repair those large commercial sewing machines and cabinet mounted home sewing machines that cannot be moved.
While competition from big box stores and internet sales remains a problem for all independent sewing machine dealers, the mere fact that sewing machine manufacturers have come to recognize the value of the independent dealer, the future is looking brighter every day.
The mere fact that officials at SVP are actively making attempts to improve the quality of their sewing machines for home use is a very good sign that quality is once again on the Singer radar screen.
This is wonderful news for those home sewers who remember the Singer sewing brand as being the standard by which every other home sewing machine company once set its goals.
The Gold Coast Sewing and Vacuum Center is at the forefront of this new found pride in the Singer name. With an inventory of the new improved yet still very affordable, Singer sewing machines and sergers to offer its customers who are among the growing number of home sewers.
In addition, with its reputation as being one of the most reliable sources for industrial sewing machines and supplies, the Gold Coast Sewing and Vacuum Center is assured of being a go to destination for people shopping for sewing machines and supplies for a many, many years to come.
No doubt, Brad’s grandfather had no clue where his New York factory would lead. There is a very good possibility that if it had not been for his establishing that clothing factory nearly 100 years ago, South Florida would never be the beneficiary of the Gold Coast Sewing and Vacuum Center.
The Gold Coast Sewing and Vacuum Center is located at 770 South Military Trail in West Palm Beach and is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM and on Saturdays from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM.
The telephone number is 561.686.3123. Gold Coast can be found on the internet at GoldCoastSewing.com. A word of advice… you might want to call in advance if you are traveling a distance to visit Gold Coast Sewing and Vacuum Center.
This is, after all, a one person operation and if Brad is out on a service call when you drop in, it just might be necessary for you to make a return trip.