Welcome to Ray's Sewing Machine Center!
Ray's Sewing Machine Center has been serving the sewing needs of customers for over 62 years, since 1947. In the 1940's Ray was a machinist, learning his trade two years before World War II and using it on board ship in the Navy. When he and his wife Deon moved to Santa Clara, he resumed his job as a machinist. An entrepreneur at heart, Ray then produced a job for himself painting corn catches on ice machines and sewing machines. Next, he began buying old sewing machines which he eventually rented for $1.00 a week. Business was so good that Ray went into the sewing machine business full-time.
By March of 1947, the business grew so large they rented a building on Park Avenue for $150 a month, selling Pfaffs, Berninas and renting industrial machines to the Japanese farmers to make covers for their greenhouses.
Deon, Ray's wife, was a college graduate majoring in home economics. Her role in the business was bookkeeping, classes, covering buttons and belt buckles. But her favorite job besides being a wife and mother was making button-holes. This she did for over 30 years.
In the late 40's Ray and Deon had a daughter, and in the mid-50's a son whom they named Ken. Ken started working in the business at the age of four, and his abilities grew quickly. He eventually went to Steckborn Switzerland to learn sales and service on Bernina sewing machines and later taught at the Bernina University.
In 2001, Ray's was inducted into the National Sewing Hall Of Fame and continues to be the top single store distributor of Janome sewing machines in the United States. Ray has passed away, his son Ken, and granddaughter Lindsay now work and manage the everyday operation. Ken and Lindsay continue to expand and share their knowledge of the sewing industry. They can be seen at many home & garden shows, local county fairs, quilt, sewing and craft expos. In July 2009, Ken, Lindsay and staff organized and promoted an embroidery seminar held at the Hilton Hotel in Reno.
Ken Writing His First Sales Receipt - 1959
The sewing machine business changed immensely through the 70s, 80s, and 90s due to computer technology, therefore changing the brand of machines Ray's sold. The European companies couldn't compete with the knowledge, quality or workmanship of the Japanese factories. In the late 80s, Ray's stopped selling European sewing machines because of rising costs and high repair factors. Today, few European companies still exist.
Ray's adage for success is "be honest and sell good products." Ken adds, "you need to work hard everyday to keep your business strong....after the sale, service and support are as important as the products we sell."
Ray's throws an annual theme party for every customer who bought a machine that year. Last years theme was the 1960s, complete with band and food galore, attracting over 300 people. Everyone had to sew a costume (some didn't) on his or her Janome sewing machine. During the party, Ken awards a Janome sewing machine, overlock machine, accessories and gift certificates for the best costumes, best dancers and door prizes. Ray's Sewing Machine center has proven to be one of the most productive sewing machine dealers in the country.
Ken continues to run the store as a family business, with help from daughter Lindsay, Stuart, and all of our wonder-ful customers who are like family. And to you, we give thanks. Here's to the next 62 years of friendship and fun!
Lindsay behind the counter - 1990
The next generation to operate Ray’s is in the hands of Lindsay. She has been working with her grandfather and father since 2001. Since the passing of Ray Gresham, Lindsay demonstrates her ability to manage the everyday store operations. Lind-say has an immense knowledge of the digitizer and other peripheral products. She continues to expand her knowledge and is honored to share this knowledge of the store and peripheral products with all cus-tomers at anytime. If you need help all you need to do is call and set an appointment for a one–on–one session.
This July 2009, Lindsay and Ken organized and promoted an embroidery seminar held at the Harrah’s Ca-sino Hotel in Reno. Our customers had a great time learning working on new projects and techniques from great instructors. Join us next year for our annual Sewing Retreat at Harrah and sign up early for 2010 Mari Gras Sewing Embroidery Retreat.
Store - Present
After sixty-two years in one location, Ken has decided to move. Since the passing of Ray it was a time for a change and the creation of new memories. You can park in the front or back of the building without wondering if there is a place to park or afraid to back out.
Ken Gresham - Present
Ken Gresham’s career in the sewing industry began in 1958 at the age of four years. Three is a very young age to begin one’s lifelong career, but his father, Ray, put him to work after an industrial sewing machine fell and broke Ken’s arm. With the medical bills being quite high for the time, Ray thought it would teach Ken good work ethics and he would learn a trade while paying off the medical bills.
Ken has had many career opportunities throughout his life: a professional drummer and one of the world’s top competitive trap shooters. As a professional drummer he played for a variety of musicians like Elvis to Ricky Nelson. As a competitive shooter he set many records that have not been broken till this day. Like everything Ken does, he strives to be the best and has proven it with longevity and quality by running one of the most successful sewing businesses in the country.
As of 1972 Ken has run Ray’s Sewing Machine Center in San Jose, CA. By the early 80’s he took over the company. Thus, he has now owned and operated the store for over 25 years. He was one of the top salespersons and a repair instructor for Bernina for several years, as well as one of the top Janome dealers, in a single store, for the past 16 years. Ken continues to make most of the sewing machine sales at Ray’s, which shows how informative and caring he is with his customers and how hard he works to sell the right machine for the customer’s needs.
Over the years, Ken has lectured on business success for sewing machine distributors and the ISMDA alike. He has provided instruction and support on sewing machine repair to many sewing machine dealers. He never speaks ill of what others like to call “his competition.” He says, “There are enough sales to go around. All you have to do is find them."
He has donated much of his time and many sewing machines to worthy causes that capture his interest. Santa Clara’s Bill Wilson Center for Children and Teens and a local Home for Battered or Pregnant Women have benefited from his generosity with the hope that those he helps will learn a skill that they can use to improve their own life.
Most people who have worked at the same job for 51 years would have gone crazy, quit or retired. Ken enjoys his work and is a good role model for those around him. He gave up potential careers in music and trap shooting to run a business started by his parents. He has made them very proud. Ken always remembers his father words, "You need to work hard every day to keep your business strong....after the sale, service and support are as important as the products we sell." Ken continues to run the store as a family business with help from one of his daughter, Lindsay. Customers like, Gloria and Stuart, who are wonderful customers that later became family join in and give thanks to you. We all say, "Cheers. Here's to the next 62 years of friendship and fun."
Lindsay Gresham's Weeks - Future
The next generation to operate Ray’s belongs in the hands of Lindsay. She has been working with her grandfather and father since 2001. Since the passing of Ray Gresham, Lindsay demonstrates her ability to manage the everyday store operations. Lindsay has an immense knowledge of the digitizer and other peripheral products. She continues to expand her knowledge and is honored to share this knowledge of the store and peripheral products with all customers at anytime. If you need help all you need to do is call and set an appointment for a one –on– one session.
Lindsay will have an instructional DVD on Specialty Sewing Feet in 2010 as she will demonstrate the versatility of each specialty foot.