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Tradition meets technology

IOWA CITY– Since 1981, Foraker Vacuum and Sewing, Inc., has been offering customers the benefits of extensive industry knowledge combined with a personal approach.
“In tough times like these, people look for that even more,” said owner Paul Curtis.
North Liberty residents Paul and his wife Terri took over the business from Paul’s stepfather in 1997. Foraker is a full-service, one-stop store for vacuums and central vacuum cleaning systems air purification machines, and for sewing, embroidery and serger machines, whether a customer needs replacement bags or belts, brings a machine in for repair or wants a brand new one.
Both Terri and Paul prefer to educate consumers before a sale, because they both spend a great deal of time educating themselves on all the products they offer.
“It is a value issue,” said Paul. “We do so many repairs, we get to see the good, the bad and the ugly. So, if a certain brand of machine comes in a lot, we get to see what the common breakages are, and the costs involved for multiple repairs. We get the inside scoop on many brands.”
While the Curtis’ are knowledgeable about and can repair all brands such as Oreck, Hoover, and Dyson, they are careful to sell only lines they believe offer good value. They sell high-end German vacuum brands such as SEBO and Miele, and Japanese sewing machines made by Janome, but also offer Simplicity machines, a company headquartered in Fenton, Mo. Offering a range of brands helps them to meet every household budget.
“We like ‘Made in the U.S. of A.,’” said Terri. “As Midwesterners, we take pride in who we sign contracts with.”
They also take home and test every line of product they sell. Even customers can take advantage of in-store testing.
“We allow everyone to try it before they buy it,” said Paul.
Terri has learned enough about sewing, and the ever-evolving sewing machine technology, to instruct others how to use the machines. She comes from a traditional home-economics background, but she has trained on some of the most sophisticated machines in the world.
“I have grown with the industry, and the technology has developed similarly to computers. Now, you can download embroidery logos from the Internet, for example, or hook up your sewing machine to a wireless device and email embroidery patterns to it,” she noted.
Still, she doesn’t want any potential new sewing enthusiast to be intimidated.
“We still have the basic sewing machine, and our inventory goes up from there. We fit every level of customer, every level of experience and every budget, from those who just do mending to those who have their own sewing or embroidery businesses on the side. And we have machines that do it all.”
That’s why, when customers come into Foraker Vaccum and Sewing, instead of asking what they need, Paul and Terri ask them what they want to do.
“There are so many aspects of sewing that people don’t even know are there,” she said. Each sewing machine purchase comes with a complementary one-on-one class with Terri. “We show customers those ‘hidden wonders’ of their machine, and that’s what’s cool.”
The latest sewing machine advancement? An embroidery machine that will literally do your quilting for you.
“You position the hoop, and walk away,” said Paul. “We like to make it as simple as possible. We don’t want the devil to be in the details.”
Vacuums are nearly as advanced, as Paul demonstrated, with true sealed filtration (not the commonly-used HEPA filters, but completely-sealed systems that keep dirt particles from re-entering the air), lifetime belts that actually last through the life of the machine, and sensors that automatically shut off the machine if you run over your kids’ socks.
The Curtis’ even get excited talking about their air filter products. Paul pointed out the fresh quality of the air inside the Foraker store.
“We have a laser diode particle scanner, handheld equipment that tests our indoor air quality. We know about dirt and bacteria and how to keep things really, truly clean,” he said.
As well they should; Paul is a successful kidney transplant patient, making him susceptible to infection.
“But everybody has health issues, like allergies,” Terri added. “It’s just as important to everyone that they have a clean, bacteria-free house.”
Paul is now working on a way for customers to create honest, unbiased reviews of all vacuum and sewing products. He is creating a consumer-based website where customers can post reviews and dealers can blog about products. However, no anonymous postings will be allowed.
“It will be an exciting place for people to get true information about where their machines come from, and how they perform, before they buy,” he said.
Look for those sites to be established soon, at freevacuumreport.com and freesewingreport.com.
Meanwhile, the Curtis’ will give you the scoop.
“We will make sure people get the product they need for the job they want to do,” Paul said.
It is part of their personal guarantee.
“We guarantee 100 percent trade-up program for one year,” he said, so if you buy a machine but want something different before the year is out, Foraker’s will give you full purchase price toward a new product. Customers who buy a vacuum or sewing machine receive a 10 percent discount every time they come back to the store, and Paul is not afraid to repair any machine.
“I get post cards and letters from customers a lot, thanking us for our help and our service,” said Paul. As an added convenience, Paul is also working to make Foraker’s a full e-commerce site. Check out the site at www.forakers.com.
Terri encourages everyone to personally give Foraker Vacuum and Sewing a try.
“If you have spent more than 10 minutes being frustrated, you’ve spent one minute too long. Give us a call.”

Foraker Vacuum and Sewing, Inc.