Cruise southwest beyond Woodway on Chapel Road and you will pass serene farmhouses and the occasional horse grazing in a peaceful pasture. If your sewing machine needs a tuneup, or you’re in the market for a sturdy machine to channel the pioneer spirit, you’ll be happy to find Denmark’s Sewing Machine Repair shop stands ready to offer a seamless customer experience.
Jerry Denmark, 70, happily works away in his shop surrounded by rescue dogs Annie and Molly and various memorabilia that reflects a fandom of some unique favorites.
“I like things to feel like I’m at home,” chuckled Denmark, as he pointed toward numerous old soda bottles and cans lining a shelf at the back of the room. Visitors will notice the eyes of Texas are upon you from his collection of UT signed athletic memorabilia, such as football jerseys of Earl Campbell and Vince Young.
“My wife is a UT alum,” Denmark explained.
Born and bred in Fort Pierce, Florida, to a railroad-working dad and a mom who owned a shoe store, Denmark came of age during the Vietnam War and spent six years in the Air Force as an inventory management specialist.
Hailing from a proud line of family members who served their country, both of his parents served in World War II, and his grandfather served in the first world war. His great-grandfather was in the Civil War under General Robert E. Lee, and was injured in combat in Virginia.
A black-and-white photograph of his great-grandparents kept under a protective glass in the shop attests to that below-the-knee injury as the old veteran is shown supported by crutches.
Denmark never envisioned an occupation that included sewing machine repair work.
After leaving the military, Denmark began working at Kmart in the soft lines department, which included the fabric and notions area. After Kmart, he had a run with various fabric stores such as Fabric World and Cloth World in Waco.
It was while working at Cloth World he attended a special Singer sewing machine school where he learned to sell and repair the machines. Little did he realize at the time, but those learned skills would offer a transition into a satisfying occupation.
Denmark eventually quit Cloth World and opened his own shop selling fabric, notions and Singer sewing machines. He also repaired machines.
“The independent business owner just couldn’t make it selling fabric and patterns,” he said.
Eventually, he just specialized in selling and repairing machines, which he has done for some 28 years. He also sells scissors, needles and other small notions, which is handy for those folks dropping off or picking up their machine.
Although he has newer-model Singer sewing machines for sale, the black, ornate, sleek body design of the century-plus-old workhorses is what makes these aged beauties so attractive. A 1913 model is situated near the shop entrance, ready to impress any prospective buyer with its smooth and impressive ability to get the job done.
Denmark credits Chip and Jo Gaines of the Magnolia empire and “Fixer Upper” fame for shedding a spotlight on businesses such as his.
“People are tearing into these old houses to fix them up, and they’re finding old sewing machines,” he said. “The young people don’t know how to sew, and they don’t want the machines. They just want the lovely cabinets.”
Tailoring New Generation
According to Nancy Bock, senior director of communications and marketing of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences in Alexandria, Virginia, classroom interest in fabric/textiles is alive and well.
“Textiles and apparel are one of the primary areas of content that is taught in family and consumer science classes,” Bock said. “This includes clothing sewing/construction, and thousands of schools offer sewing as a component of the overall family and consumer sciences coursework.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bock said thousands of students and teachers across the country put their sewing skills to work to make numerous face masks.
Closer to home, Natalie Snow teaches family and consumer sciences at Midway High School where students are introduced to sewing basics in Principles of Human Services (formerly known as home economics).
“The students learn how to sew on a button, hook and eye, hem, and sew an apron,” Snow said. “In the more advanced fashion design classes, students work on big sewing projects.”
When asked if the pandemic brought a surge in his repair business, Denmark said, “I was really busy the first two months of the pandemic with people getting their machines repaired to make masks.”
As the pandemic wears on and people are more accustomed to staying at home, perhaps they will develop renewed interest in such a versatile hobby as sewing.
Buy a quality older machine was the advice given by Denmark when asked what he would tell those interested in learning the basics of sewing. He said the sewing experience will be better overall.
New machines are cheaply made, he added, and not meant to be repaired. Often the needed part is more expensive than what the machine is worth, he said.
The two most common problems with sewing machines he encounters are people threading the machine incorrectly and dirty machines. He reminds people that sewing machines need to be cleaned and oiled to keep them running smoothly. Check the machine operator’s manual for specific care instructions, he suggested.
If the sewing machine is used a lot, a yearly service check is in order in which the machine is cleaned and oiled. A visual inspection of all the parts is also an important part of annual maintenance.
“Listen to your machine,” Denmark emphasized. “If it sounds different, take it in to get it checked out.” Continuing to use the machine could ruin it beyond repair, he said.
Sewing enthusiasts and those interested in pursuing this age-old hobby are reminded that enjoyable and perhaps even profitable times can be had with a quality machine and some good old-fashioned patience. ￼
Denmark’s Sewing Machine Repair
12617 Chapel Road
Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.