By Kalea Hall
At Domestic Sewing Center, the customers walk through the back door and immediately receive a greeting.
But the greetings here are more than the usual.
After 60 years of selling and servicing sewing machines, Jacob Kois knows some people and he knows their sewing machines.
His daughter, Linda Fabrizio, who has worked with her dad since the 1980s, does, too.
“You treat everybody as if they are ready to purchase and become a member of the family,” Fabrizio said.
Kois, 87, hears the door open at the shop at 2011 Youngstown Road SE and turns to see a man with a machine in need of repair. He promptly tells the customer to place it on the service station so he can take care of it.
“You’ve got a nice machine,” he says. “I’ll check it out for you and call you with an estimate.”
Kois reminds the customer there’s no charge for him to take a look at the machine.
Belts, screwdrivers and scissors are some of the noticeable items in the “service department” in the back of the Domestic Sewing Center shop where Kois works.
Here, he finds the problem and goes to work fixing it. In the basement, a graveyard-like pile of sewing machines are there for him if he needs a spare part.
“It’s a hobby, and you get paid for it,” he said.
This is how Kois has built his business up: working hard, being kind and serving.
“He’s 87, and he loves coming to work,” Fabrizio said. “He’s here six days a week. He’s slowing down but still very active in the business. He enjoys coming to work.”
Recently, Fabrizio had a 60th anniversary celebration for her dad. In the “classroom” section of the shop, old pictures highlight some of the memories after 60 years of selling, servicing and sewing.
Kois started the business out of the basement of his two-story Columbia Place home in Warren.
The Union Township, Pa., native got out of the Navy in 1954 and went to work for a sewing-machine company.
“There was no other work there,” he said.
Kois liked the work and in 1955, he went to school in Pittsburgh to learn how to fix sewing machines.
In 1956, when he came to Warren, he noticed there wasn’t much competition for a sewing-machine stores, so he decided to open one in his house.
“I was running little ads in the classifieds,” he said.
Kois’ late wife, Dorothy, was the sewer, and he was the servicer of the business. Together, they formed a team that couldn’t be stopped.
“The people of Warren have been good to us,” Kois said. “A lot of hot shots come into town and in three months, they will be gone.”
Kois didn’t just run the business with his wife. He was also a journeyman pipe-fitter at Copperweld, a now-shuttered steel plant near Warren.
While he was at work, Dorothy would run the store. When Jacob came home, there often would be service calls to make on sewing machines.
By the late 1950s, Domestic Sewing Center needed more room.
The current location was purchased and a showroom was built. In 1983, a hot water boiler exploded and caused them to rebuild.
Fabrizio came to work at the store in the 1980s. The former teacher decided to start some classes at the shop. Her first class was on how to make a pair of designer jeans.
“I liked it,” she said of sewing. “It was in my blood.”
Fabrizio learned from a young age how to sew from her mother.
Now, Fabrizio whips around the shop and explains the capability of today’s sewing machines and she shows off the designs and fun, yet functional, items sewers can make.
She shows off the high-end Destiny machine by Baby Lock. The digital machine has a touch screen, video tutorials and a NeedleCam to see exactly where the needle is going.
The store also offers manual machines for those who don’t want a computer helping them.
Then, there’s the serger machines, which quickly thread pieces of fabric together for a clean, extra-durable seam.
“This is a nice way to put things together,” Fabrizio said.
The store also has quilting machines.
Embroidery thread, needles and “how to” videos are other necessities here.
Carolyn Lorent of Berlin Center has been a customer of the Domestic Sewing Center for more than 20 years.
“Linda remembers everybody,” Lorent said. “She knows what machine you have and what you are interested in.”
Lorent was in the shop last week to pick up some needles. She’s making a quilt for her first great-grandchild.
“I shorten all my mother’s and sister’s pants,” she said. “I made a suit for my grandson and he wasn’t real thrilled about it.”
She’s relied on the shop to get her sewing machines, get them serviced and to learn new tricks of the trade.
“They show how to use my machine, and if I have questions, I call and they help me out,” Lorent said.
If anyone buys a machine here, they get an unlimited number of lessons.
“What good is buying a machine you don’t know how to use it?” Fabrizio asked.
For information on Domestic Sewing Center and for a list of classes offered, go to: domesticsewingcenter.com/.