Store thrives as customers sew their way to savings

Sewing used to be a necessity. These days, it's mostly a hobby – one that looks more attractive as people stay home because of the economy and try to save money.

That's good for Charlotte Sewing Center, a 22-year-old South Boulevard store that sells sewing machines and supplies. Sales were up 17 percent in 2007 and are up 15 percent so far this year, owner Bill Troxell says.

“Not everyone's going to sit around and watch TV all day,” he said. “Now that they're at home, they want to do things.”

Some sew their way to savings on pricey home décor items such as window treatments. Unlike sewing your own clothes, which often doesn't save money because many stores sell inexpensive apparel, it's much cheaper to make drapes than have someone else do it, Troxell noted.

Sewing machine sales began going up about six years ago after a flat decade, said Troxell, the son of a Singer Co. store manager. Now, he said, technology also is driving purchases, with more machines offering computerized features.

The store draws customers from about a 75-mile radius, though Troxell says more people now call before making the trip because of high gas prices.

Once they arrive, they find more space: The store doubled in size this year to 2,000 square feet.

And the sewing courses are full – to the point that the center is adding a third teacher in 2009. Jen Aronoff