In the 1950's, on Washington Street at
Market, directly opposite Bamberger's Department Store *,
there was a unique retail business, Housecraft Inc. It sold only
one item - sewing machines - and its three floor operation made
it the largest of its kind in the United States.
A housewife who bought a new sewing machine at Housecraft received
with it a free sewing or dressmaking course, given on the store's
premises by skilled instructors.
How Housecraft got to that Downtown Newark location and that size
of operation is a story in itself.
The business had originally started in the late 1940's in a 16-foot
wide storefront on Broad Street in Downtown Newark directly opposite
Newark City Hall.
The store owner, Sam Green, picked up old sewing machine heads,
mainly Singers, and reconditioned and electrified them and sold
them in new wood cabinets in the store. All of the selling was done
by his wife, Sylvia, who had acquired sales and marketing skills
in earlier employment with a Newark appliance distributor.
One day, the store had an out-of-town visitor who turned their
life around. His name was Leon Jolson.
He told the Greens he was a Holocaust survivor who in the pre-Hitler
era had been a member of a prosperous European business family that
had had extensive dealings with the Necchi Company in Pavia, Italy,
before the War. The company was then famous for its manufacture
Now, Jolson, newly settled in America, had re-connected with the
Necchi Company, which now made a sewing machine that was vastly
superior to the leading American make, Singer -- and the Necchi
Company had given Jolson and his recently-formed company exclusive
marketing rights to the Necchi sewing machine n the United States
Jolson told the Greens he was traveling from city to city with
a sample Necchi machine and signing up dealers on an exclusive basis.
The Greens, Sylvia and Sam, were so impressed with the Necchi
that Jolson had brought with him, that they eventually signed for
exclusive Essex and Union County sales rights in exchange for which
they committed themselves to buy a minimum of more that 100 new
Necchi sewing machine heads every month.
This was a considerable gamble for the Greens, considering they
had never, before the contract signing, sold a single new sewing
machine of any make.
They took the gamble, and with it also gambled on a long-term
lease for the vacant retail property directly opposite Bamberger's
on Washington Street that had once been Michaels Department Store.
With considerable advertising and promotion in newspapers, in
telephone directories, and on a new local television channel, Channel
13, in the Mosque Theatre Building on Broad Street, they gradually
built the business up to be one of the most active stores of its
type in the country.
The Necchi Company, with headquarters in New York City, considered
Housecraft Inc. in Downtown Newark their premier dealer and copies
of Housecraft's Necchi newspaper ads in the Star-Ledger, were sent
as samples of good Necchi advertising to Necchi dealers throughout
Through a stroke of good fortune, not too long after Housecraft
committed itself to the Necchi franchise, Consumers Union came out
with its ratings for sewing machines and named the Necchi as the
No. 1 Best Buy.
Sales success for Housecraft, after the Consumers Union happening,
seemed virtually assured and the operation grew with a huge staff
that included store and field sales personnel, teachers for their
school, and technical personnel to assemble and prepare machines
for sale. Also a branch store was opened in downtown Elizabeth.
Additional sewing machine lines were added, including one from
Japan that Housecraft sold under its own brand name. Eventually,
the Singer people were so impressed with that Japanese machine that,
rather than compete with it, they bought the company and put their
own name on the machine.
After many years of success as one of the nation's top sewing
machine operations, facing the prospect of a new long-term lease,
the Greens decided, after a virtual seven-days-a-week business operation,
to take some time off and enjoy their senior years. They closed
down the business after a lengthy clearance sale to dispose of stock
As with many other successful Downtown Newark business operations,
Housecraft Inc. had had its "15 minutes in the sun" which
lasted about 15 years. Its owners eventually turned to real estate
I lived through and was involved in virtually every heartbeat
of the Housecraft Inc. experience. Sylvia Green was my sister, and
I created all of her advertising and publicity.
* In 1921, the Housecraft site was
occupied by Lewitts Department Drugstore. The owners used the store's
grand opening on July 2 to have the Carpentier-Dempsey fight professionally
announced at the flag bedecked store site. A crowd of 30,000 filled
the walks and curbs at the intersection of Market and Washington
Streets to hear the fight. Dempsey won....In the post World War
2 era the Washington Street entrances of Housecraft would face the
L. Bamberger & Co. marquee where Santa Claus would alight from
his sleigh to enter the department store at the end of the traditional
Bamberger Thanksgiving Day parade.