Sewing busy: Coronavirus pandemic keeps Hamilton Mountain sewing machine repair business buzzing

Charlie Broughton says his sewing machine repair business on Concession Street has never been busier thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Charlie Broughton says people who have started sewing again bring their machines to him for maintenance.

the coronavirus pandemic has led many people to adopt hobbies and activities that they can do at home.

One of them is sewing and Charlie Broughton couldn’t be happier.

“During all of this, I was pushed around,” said the 89-year-old Mountain resident who opened Charlie’s Sewing Machines, a sewing machine repair, sales and accessories store, on Concession Street eight years ago. “At one point I had over 50 machines on the floor waiting to be fixed.”

Broughton noted that business had been “patchy” before the pandemic, but things changed so much that he had to stop taking repair claims for about three weeks last September.

“A lot of people came here because they were trying to make masks,” he said. “(Their) sewing machine has been sitting in the basement for 20 years and has never been examined and they’re going to get it working and it doesn’t work.”

Broughton said a “tune-up” would get most machines working again.

“I take the covers off, take all the components that do the stitching, take them apart and clean them, make sure there’s no rust and dirt, then check everything, if the steering wheel turns correctly, if the needle goes up and correctly,” he said.

Broughton estimates he repaired around 200 sewing machines last year and had already repaired that many by the end of last June.

It has also sold about 60 refurbished machines over the past year, ranging in cost from $85 to $300.

A native of Fort Erie, Broughton said his mother died when he was six and his father died when he was 10.

He said his stepmother took him and his younger brother Reg to live with his parents in Brantford in the 1940s.

It was there that, at age 15, he answered an advertisement in a newspaper for a local textile manufacturing company that was looking for a young man to learn how to repair sewing machines and work in the factory.

He got the job, left school, and never looked back.

Since then, he has worked in a variety of sewing machine repair and other maintenance jobs, including running an engine repair shop in Hagersville.

About nine years ago he started repairing sewing machines at home as a favor to friends and got so busy that he decided to come out of retirement and open a shop.

Although he has no plans to stop working, Broughton has indicated he will turn 90 in February and has put his business up for sale.

He wouldn’t mind being kept in the shop.

Professor of Marketing at McMaster University Marvin Ryder said home business has exploded during the pandemic.

“Forced to return home and without outside distractions, people have turned to other pursuits,” Ryder noted.

“I know people who have rediscovered the pleasure of reading and these small lending libraries have flourished in the neighborhoods. More and more people are knitting, crocheting, sewing and quilting to keep their hands busy.

“Some have decided to build a basement or redecorate rooms in their homes. Some do scrapbooking or sorting family photos. people recreate differently because it’s necessary for good mental health.”

Broughton has also used her skills to help people in Africa.

Work with Burlington Alongside the internationalhe donated 13 sewing machines refurbished over the past two years to a village in Liberia where a local seamstress is teaching young women how to sew.

“We are so grateful to Charlie,” said alongside founding chairman David Miclash. “His donations are sure to have a major positive impact on the lives of these children, their communities and perhaps in the future on the impoverished country of Liberia.”

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