He married into the trade, learned the skill and kept the business open.
By ALISON KEMP
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN — Even though the front door is locked as soon as customers enter Gavozzi Upholstery, Ted Gavozzi is not sorry he joined the upholstery field.
The neighborhood has changed around his South Avenue store. Crime has increased over the years, and that is why the door is locked as customers enter.
But, for Gavozzi, business has not changed.
He still has enough customers to keep him working 12-hour shifts, making custom furniture and re-upholstering other furniture.
He learned the trade only because he married the boss’s daughter. The day after he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in December 1944, Gavozzi joined the Navy for 2 1/2 years. Upon returning, he married his longtime girlfriend, Florence Hubert.
The GI Bill provided Gavozzi with on-the-job training and pay for three years. He learned from his father-in-law, Frank Hubert, who had come to America from Germany.
Hubert was a harness maker, but that skill was not needed in Youngstown, so he learned to upholster. After a few years of working for someone, Hubert opened his own business in 1936. Hubert and Gavozzi were partners for 35 years.
Tricks of the trade
Hubert taught Gavozzi to hand-tie the springs on furniture and not to cheat, Gavozzi said. He also always re-ties the springs in the furniture that he upholsters and still uses tacks instead of staples.
When he’s working, he puts his magnetic hammer into the can of tacks and the tacks cling to the hammer. Then he puts the hammer, with tacks attached, in his mouth and leaves the tacks there, retrieving them as needed. When he puts the magnetic end of the hammer in his mouth, it brings out a tack, always by its head.
These tacks in his mouth did not stop Gavozzi from continuing to talk about his business. He said the only harm the tacks have caused is to his teeth.
Gavozzi described his trade as “a losing thing,” comparing it to the decline in shoemakers.
“The trend is to buy something and throw it away,” he said, rather than repair the furniture or shoes.
His daughter does the sewing for him, and one of his two sons comes to Youngstown from Kent on Saturdays to help make deliveries. Neither son will be able to continue the business because of allergies.
His favorite part of working as an upholsterer is “the satisfaction of seeing how nice it looks [when finished],” he said.
A lot of the work he does is on antiques, and customers are frequently referrals. He used to make “tons and tons” of custom-made furniture, he said.
Many of Gavozzi’s referrals come from Terry Semach of Semach’s Northside TV and Appliances in Struthers.
Semach said he has known Gavozzi for as long as he can remember and likes having the opportunity to have furniture made in America, which Gavozzi provides.
Semach sends his customers to Gavozzi when pieces need to be repaired. He said Gavozzi not only corrects the problem but also makes the furniture better than new.
One of the customers Semach referred to Gavozzi was Fran Brayer of Boardman. She has had two pieces of furniture re-upholstered by Gavozzi.
When she goes to his store, Brayer said it is evident Gavozzi loves his work. She can tell by the meticulous way he works on his projects.
“He delivers what he promises,” she said.