April 14, 2011: FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – When Diane Moore, owner of Fort Lauderdale’s Lady Di’s Upholstery, started shopping at the Pfaff Sewing Center, she had no idea she would eventually own the place.
That all changed one day in 2008 when owner, Jack, Jr., announced that the store was going to be shut down. He had inherited it from his dad, Jack, Sr., who started the business back in the 1970s and was now closing forever.
Diane went home and told her life partner, Wayne Duke, that she wanted to buy the place and have her brother and sister run it for her. It seemed like a good well thought out plan, so Wayne gave her his full support and agreed to help her acquire the shop.
The only glitch was that the store was in total disarray. In the years since opening the Pfaff Sewing Center, Jack, Sr. had built a steady following, but did not pay much attention to conventional inventory procedures.
Approximately 400 sewing machines, machine parts, accessories and notions were strewn everywhere with no rhyme or reason. Some of the machines worked and some didn’t. They were all covered with dust and looked more like they should been in a salvage yard.
In fact, the shop resembled a modern day version of Fibber McGee’s closet. To anyone walking in of the street, the Pfaff Sewing Center looked like a scene from the television show, Hoarders: Buried Alive.
When Jack, Sr. handed the business over to Jack, Jr., things only got more out of control. Whatever order there was to placement of inventory was evident only to Jack, Sr. and his son, who knew where every single item was located.
According to Diane, shopping there was “an adventure.” She adds, “You could always get what you wanted, even though you were never quite sure how they were going to find it.”
After taking possession of the shop, Diane and Wayne went about cleaning the place up. They made significant progress with the front part of the Prospect Road store, arranging displays of vintage and new sewing machines, accessories, notions, fabric and books related to sewing and tailoring.
The storage room, office and work bench remained a virtual hodgepodge, but to the public, the Pfaff Sewing Center was coming together quite nicely. George, the machine repairman who had worked for the previous owners stayed on board.
As planned, Diane’s brother and sister were hired, but that didn’t last too long. Her brother left the store shortly after the grand re-opening and her sister returned to Michigan because she did not like Florida summers.
When all of this happened, Diane was extremely busy with the upholstery business and unable to devote any significant time or energy to the Pfaff Sewing Center. In the meantime, Wayne, who for many years had worked in the construction industry, sustained a minor injury and decided to focus his energies on sewing machines instead.
The only problem was Wayne knew absolutely nothing about sewing machines. He took it upon himself to learn all he possibly could about sewing machine service and repair.
Jack, Sr. came back to help him learn the basics and Wayne dove into every book he could find on sewing machine maintenance and repair.
In just a few weeks, he had become an expert on the subject and on-site manager of the shop with assistance from a part time worker.
Wayne admits that although he and Diane took possession of the Pfaff Sewing Center about three years ago, they are not even close to getting the storage room, office and work area where they want it. He has organized the inventory and is still in the process of cataloging everything.
The scissor sharpening machine has been moved to a location where it can be used safely. The office is now usable space; and the workbench is being moved to a larger, more functional location. Wayne revealed, “business started out very slow, but we are not giving up.”
The inventory at the Pfaff Sewing Center includes new and used sewing machines. The oldest machine in his inventory is probably a Singer 66 treadle machine circa the early part of the twentieth century.
The Pfaff Sewing Center also offers industrial machines for sale. Wayne takes orders for industrial machines for clients in four South Florida counties.
He assembles the machines and tests them in the shop before personally delivering them, setting them up for his clients, and guaranteeing that they are satisfied with the products he sells.
One policy Wayne has implemented is to replace all clutch motors on industrial machines he sells with electronic motors. According to Wayne, “electronic motors are lighter, quieter, more energy efficient and cleaner.
Clutch motors run constantly as long as the power is turned on. Electronic motors run only when the foot pedal is engaged.”
This seemingly insignificant implementation not only makes industrial machines sold by the Pfaff Sewing Center run cooler and more economically, they are more earth friendly, resulting in a cleaner work environment for the people using them.
No doubt, running the Pfaff Sewing Center has been an uphill battle, but the reward is beginning to reveal itself. The sagging economy has had a two-fold effect on this new business venture.
On one hand, things have been a bit slow because people are not willing to spend money at the rate they were spending a few years ago. On the other hand, however, the economy is also at least partly responsible for a renewed interest in home sewing.
More and more people are dusting off their old sewing machines and bringing them in for servicing.
Wayne reports, “As time goes by, we are noticing more and more people are discovering that we are here and telling their friends. Word is getting around. We are seeing a definite uptick in traffic.”
He is confident that as time goes by, more and more people will discover the “one of best kept secrets in the South Florida world of sewing.”
The Pfaff Sewing Center is located at 61 West Prospect Road in Oakland Park, Florida. The telephone number is 954-772-2111. The hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9:00 AM until 6:00 PM and 9:00AM until 1:00PM on Saturday.
Lady Di’s Upholstery is located at 281 East Commercial Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The telephone number is 954-938-9979.
We would like to thank Diane and Duke for the interview and for lending us various sewing machines for reviews!