Sewing Machine Shop keeps customers coming back
Ottman marks 10th year as Falls specialty store owner
by Jeff Pederson
Sheboygan Falls News Editor
With new technology feeding increasing ease and convenience, the art of sewing is alive and well, especially in the city of Sheboygan Falls.
For the past 36 years, the Sewing Machine Shop in Sheboygan Falls has been a one-stop haven for all things related to sewing and quilting.
The unique, specialty shop has thrived since opening in 1978, under the ownership of Kathy and Buck Carman.
For the past 10 years, Sewing Machine Shop owner Darryl Ottman has kept the sewing and quilting tradition going, earning a legion of loyal customers along the way.
Although Ottman says he had never aspired to own a business, circumstances converged and prompted him to purchase the Sewing Machine Shop in September 2004.
“I had been working for a company out of Oshkosh called Fox Valley Metrology, serving precision measuring equipment in machine shops all over the country,” Ottman said. “I did that for eight years and the traveling was really starting to get to me. With a wife and two kids, it was really tough to be gone all the time and I was getting burned out. That is when I started looking into doing something else.
“I had heard that the Carman’s were looking to sell the business and they wanted to sell to someone local, who would keep it going in Sheboygan Falls,” he said. “Being a Sheboygan Falls native, I was intrigued by the possibilities. It was just a good fit. I didn’t have a background in business, but I had done a lot of customers service, which is huge in this type of business.”
Ottman, who owns the Sewing Machine Shop along with his wife Brenda, says the business thrives on being unique to the area.
“We are definitely unique and we do fill a niche that really no one else in this area does,” Ottman said. “We sell and service sewing machines. That’s what we know and we are proud of that.
“Sure, you can go to a big box store to by a sewing machine and all the accessories, but you won’t get the same quality of machine and you definitely will not receive the caliber of personalized service that we offer,” he said. “We thrive on our customer service. We have built up a good reputation and that is something I work hard to maintain every day.”
The Sewing Machine Shop serves as an exclusive dealer for Janome sewing machines, which Ottman touts as the best on the market.
“I think Janome has the best electronics, which is a big part of the new computerized machines,” Ottman said. “They are also very reliable and durable. I actually don’t get a lot of Janome machines coming in for repairs.
“The Janome company also provides great service to its dealers,” he said. “Whenever, I need something or have a question, they really help out and support me, which is great.”
Ottman says the shop offers a full line of personal and industrial Janome machines for all skill levels, ranging in price from $119 to $11,000.
“When a new customer comes in, I ask them questions to get an idea of what kind of sewing experience they have and what they are planning to do with the machine,” Ottman said. “Based on what they tell me, I try to fit the customer with the right machine.
“I don’t oversell,” he said. “I want our customers to leave happy and come back to us happy in the future,” he said. “I like to see when people grow with sewing and I always tell new customers that they can trade up, when they are ready to go to the next level. We have a nice range of machines from high end to middle of the road to beginner. We can fit a machine to any customer.”
According to Ottman, technological advances in recent years have revolutionized how sewing is done.
“Today, you have so many electronic and computerized features, which have really made things easier,” Ottman said. “Apple has even come out with a wireless program on the iPad which allows you to sew a pattern remotely by just touching a screen in a different room.
“It has been a challenge stay on top of all of the updates, because there are so many improvements that pop up at such a rapid pace these days,” he said. “
“Today’s machines also have needle threaders and speed control, which people seem to like a lot,” he said. “They are so easy to use too. I have people in their 90s, who are running computerized machines with no problems.”
Even with the latest innovations designed for convenience, Ottman is well aware that operating a machine can be a challenge for many, especially sewing newcomers.
“We offer free training for every machine we sell,” Ottman said. “People can set up appointments and I will sit down and go through all their questions.
“For many people, coming in for a training session, is easier than referring to the owner’s manual over and over,” he said. “I have customers come in daily for help with their machines. Sometimes I get stretched for time, but that is just part of offering good customer service.”
In addition to selling Janome sewing and quilting machines, a wide range of thread, bobbins, needles, parts for all makes and models and American-made Horn of America Collection machine cabinets, Ottman devotes much of his time to repairing all types of sewing machines.
“We service and repair all makes and models of machines,” Ottman said. “We try to keep up to date with all models, even the older ones, which can be difficult to find parts for these days,” Ottman said. “A large chunk of my time each day is devoted to service and repair work. We strive to get the machines back to customers in a reasonable turnaround time.”
Ottman, who has been ranked among the top 100 Janome dealers in the nation, says while most of his customers are from the immediate Sheboygan County area, there are some that venture in from farther away.
“The word of mouth has helped the business spread to different areas,” Ottman said. “We have regular customers from Two Rivers to Ripon to Oshkosh and Appleton to Cedarburg. We cover a pretty good radius. There aren’t too many businesses around quite like ours.
“We also have the freedom to do things that the big box stores can’t like allowing people to try out the machines before they buy them,” he said. “All our machines are hooked up and ready to go, so people can come in and get a good feel for whether they want to buy a particular machine.”
While he does receive what he calls “volunteer” help from his wife, daughter Morgan and son Clayton, Ottman operates mainly as a one-man show.
“I’m here six days a week and on Sundays I normally come in to do paperwork,” Ottman said. “It takes up a lot of time and there really are no days off.”
Looking to the future, Ottman does not see making any kind of change anytime soon.
“Our kids are getting older,” Ottman said. “Morgan is a freshman in high school and Clayton is a freshman in college, and they haven’t expressed an interest in taking over the business. Soon they will no longer be able to help as much. I will probably at some point think about hiring someone else to help out.
“Right now, I wouldn’t give it up for anything though,” he said. “I still enjoy it a great deal. I get to meet a lot of really nice people everyday. I still look forward to coming to work everyday that is a really great thing. I figure I have 15 years before I can retire anyway, so I don’t anticipate going anywhere for a long time.”
The Sewing Machine Shop, which is located at 860 Monroe St., is open 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on Monday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
For more information, call 467-3135, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.sewingmachineshop.net