Sewtime Sewing Machines is a time portal. Situated in Oakland Gardens (Bayside, Queens, New York), owner Susie Blumstein’s 41-year-old sewing company bridges the bygone era of New York’s bustling garment industry with the modern world of e-commerce, independent crafters, and specialty clothiers.
“Back in the ‘50’s and 60’s, when my dad ran his sewing shop, he had 600 big corporate accounts. Industrial sewing drove the economy in New York and provided a good living for all of us on Long Island,” Susie says of her company and personal history. “In those days, you could quit your job in the morning and find a better one by the afternoon. The world changed, and we lost all our manufacturing.”
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While most legacy businesses fade away when things change, Susie has found creative and innovative ways to modernize her sewing business through marketing and technology. Recognizing that the industrial machine powering New York’s garment industry was lost forever to overseas outsourcing, Susie found new markets to serve by selling sewing machines and accessories, and services like repairs and education. A few examples of these new markets:
- The independent crafter market: Technology has fueled the growing creative economy, with lower technical barriers for anyone creating, selling, and distributing things consumers will pay for. Many of them need to sew. “I have a girl, an artist, who’s sewing screws and nails on T-shirts and selling them to Yuppies in the Village for $200 apiece.”
- The nostalgia market: Sewing machines are a link to the past — to mom or grandma, for example. Susie keeps those connections alive. “A woman came in with a sewing machine wrapped in a baby blanket. It needed repairs. She said, ‘I can’t stand the thought of you taking it apart, taking its guts out. It’s like major surgery.’ I told her we’d take good care of it.”
- The memento market: For customers awash in all things digital, Susie provides a way to make memories into something you can touch and feel. “A woman came in crying and dumped out a bag of laundry, saying I had to help her make a quilt. Her 21-year-old daughter had died of melanoma, and these were her favorite clothes. We made a memory quilt together.”
- The escape market: Escapism is a fact of life. Susie gives customers productive and healthy distractions from their anxieties. “People come in here with all kinds of problems. Our sewing classes cheer them up. They feel better when they make something creative.”
In another contrast of old and new, Susie leverages big data to optimize her small business and find new revenue opportunities. She uses the revenue analytics tools from Womply to keep tabs on revenue growth or stagnation between her two physical locations and her online store and figure out what’s driving the trends. She applies that information to create and refine an events calendar for Sewtime and plan advertising to attract customers to her events and classes.
Womply “is critical to how we plan and promote our business,” Susie says. “All the information I need is in one place. I don’t know how any storekeeper gets by without it, to be honest.” Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!
Extra credit: read Susie’s comments about the evolution of local marketing for small businesses in CNET.