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Willis Yoder and his family opened the doors to their storefront in downtown Berlin in the spring of 2011. “My wife’s side of the family has been in the sewing machine business for many years.” With their family passionate about the sewing trade, they decided it would be a good fit for the store.
“The goal was to have a family oriented business that reached out to the locals as well as the tourists,” said Willis. When they first began, Willis said they initially set out to provide a service to the local community but noticed that the community was quickly growing and catering their businesses more to the Amish country travelers. The Yoders adapted their business to follow suit.
“We came from humble beginnings,” explained Willis. When the store first opened, Willis worked part time hauling furniture for another company and the store was run mostly by his daughter, Marilyn Yoder. Eventually, his work from the store became too much as their family business began to grow, and Willis was able to work full time alongside his family.
When Willis and his family started the business, they had a mere 15-20 sewing machines and vacuums and a handful of sewing notions. The business has greatly expanded to over 50 machines – sewing and vacuums combined.
“People always ask me,’ how do sewing machines and vacuums go together?’” Said Willis. “I honestly don’t know why it is, but they do all their trade shows together.”
Holmes Sew and Vac carries two main Vacuum brands: The popular Riccar brand which is a very durable and a good vacuum, explained Willis, and the Miele brand, which is a German based brand that is becoming more and more popular.
The Elna and Necchi brand sewing machines can be found at Holmes Sew and Vac. They carry over 25 models with everything from your basic sewing machine, to quilters and embroiderers, explained Marilyn.
“Our main goal in building a business is customer service. If our customers are happy, we are going to be happy,” said Willis. Holmes Sew and Vac offers five years of free service and a five year warranty on parts for their new purchase. All service work is done in-house by Willis himself and machine servicing is where most of their business comes from.
Don’t fret if you didn’t purchase your machine from the store itself and you are experiencing technical difficulty: “We service and repair all makes and models of sewing machines and vacuums. We carry parts for just about any sewing machine and vacuum and if it’s not in our store, we can order it,” said Willis.
“You can go anywhere and buy a sewing machine, but if you don’t know how to use it you are going to get frustrated,” said Marilyn. “I teach people how to use the machine from how to thread the bobbin to how to sew with it.”
Being an avid sewer herself, Marilyn will sit down with a customer as they make their decision on the machine they want and show them how to operate the machine. She also offers to help customers navigate their new machine after they have made their purchase, whether they stop in for a quick tutorial or make a phone call. (I watched as she took a call during the interview and walked a fellow sewer through a problem with their sewing machine.) Marilyn explained people will call her anywhere from two weeks to two years after they have made a purchase to help them troubleshoot a quick problem.
To say Marilyn has a passion for sewing is a an understatement. If you ask her, she will tell you “it’s in my blood.”
“My grandma on my mom’s side is a really good seamstress. Ever since I can remember, I have been around sewing machines. I remember my grandma sat down with me with a square of fabric and that’s where I learned to sew,” she recalled fondly.
“I’m always learning new things and taking classes. I like vacations but I really like coming home and sitting down to my sewing machine,” said added.
Marilyn even offers to help out with your quilting projects. Berlin is known as a quilting town and a lot of people hand-quilt, but some people don’t have the time to work on their projects, she explained. Marilyn has her own long-arm machine that she uses to help fellow quilters finish their projects. “They leave it with me and then they pick it up and bind it,” she said.
“We definitely keep busy,” said Marilyn. “There are always things to do.” Both Willis and Marilyn agree they would love to offer sewing classes to the public in the future, but do not have the space to provide it at the current time.
Holmes Sew and Vac will feature a Spring Sale, April 7-11, and an Anniversary Sale in June. Stop in for special discounts on new machines.
Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Have you thought about what you will get her? How about a brand new sewing machine or some sewing supplies? Or maybe a hand-made apron made by Marilyn herself? Marilyn said she enjoys making aprons from the simple adult styles to frilly and embellished styles and even children’s aprons.
“We really enjoy our family run business as well as the people we meet from all over the world. Sales have been good and it has been a blessing,” said Willis. “We are a Christian family and on those principals we will continue to build the business.”
Holmes Sew and Vac is located at 4897 West Main St., in Berlin. Store hours are Tuesday –Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday to enjoy time with their family. For more information call 330-893-2864 and stay tuned for the launch of their new website, holmessewandvac.com.