- Associated Press - Sunday, March 1, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Sneed’s Vacuum & Sewing Center Inc. has remained in business for more than half a century by offering the personal touch.

While that may sound simple, it is something the owners never take for granted.

“We’ve been asked how we have survived all these years with the competition so great,” Regina Sneed said. “Our family business has always been about serving the customers and putting them first, to find a way to fill their needs. The customers are the ones to credit for our success and thriving.”

She and husband, Charles “Buddy” Sneed, own the business, located at 2614 Seventh Ave. in north Charleston.

The business began in 1956 in the basement of the Charleston home of Buddy’s parents, Minnie and Charles Everett Sneed. Buddy was in junior high when his father passed along his mechanical knowledge. Father and son serviced machines for the old Stone & Thomas and Diamond department stores. The elder Sneed had experience as a door-to-door salesman for Electrolux and later became sales manager for Hoover.

The business quickly outgrew the basement, and a storefront was rented in downtown Charleston. As business continued to expand, larger spaces were rented until Sneed’s moved to its current spot in 1984. Buddy purchased the business from his father in 1981 and the following year married Regina, who brought along her love for sewing, a skill she learned as a child from her grandmother.

With their combined talents and mutual love for people, the business continued to thrive.

“We have done business with grandparents, parents and children of many customers,” Regina said. “We just ask them what they want to see from us.”

Buddy, 72, and Regina, 60, are also parents and grandparents with two grown daughters between them. Buddy’s daughter, Stacy Sneed, lives in North Carolina. Regina’s daughter, Laura Winland, and husband, Jimmy, live in Ohio with two sons and are in the process of adopting a daughter.

In 2014, the 9,000-square-foot Sneed’s Vacuum & Sewing Center underwent remodeling with customers serving as consultants.

“We had a clearance sale last June and emptied out the store,” Regina said. “We closed for a few weeks, painted, built a new cash register area and put decorative doors of different heights near the back where we call the area the quilt village.”

The doors are in various colors while the theme for the overall remodeling project is red and gray. More fabric was added to the inventory along with other sewing products, and merchandise was generally rearranged.

While nearly everything was done to make customers happy, there was one matter that was not negotiable. Some asked to do away with the vacuum cleaner paraphernalia, but that was the backbone of how it all began. Sweeper bags and accessories were moved to a less conspicuous area but are there to stay. Sewing machines as well as vacuums are sold. Technicians are available for repairs.

Buddy did most of the remodeling himself. However, one day a fellow showed up on his bicycle and asked for a job. Tracy Piper, who had worked for them many years ago, was put to work the next day and has remained an invaluable help with everything from painting and carpentry to plumbing. Piper, 60, has also continued to ride his bike to work each day, 12 miles one way.

Sneed’s now has seven employees and eight instructors who teach a variety of sewing classes from beginning to advanced. Regina teaches classes regarding how to use various machines.

While she can teach a student how to use any machine, the store now carries only one brand.

“We are proud to be a Bernina dealer and believe they offer the best products and support,” she said.

Go to www.sneedswv.com to see a newsletter and sewing class schedule.

Buddy, who is “semi-retired,” still works part time in the business and is thrilled that it has continued to thrive. He credits his father for starting the business and his wife for its current success.

“I think it’s fantastic,” he said of the longtime family business. “I am blessed with her.”

Even after several decades in business, success is not taken for granted.

“When I unlock the door each day, I’m reminded to be thankful to still be in business and to thank God for his blessings,” Regina said.


Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, https://www.charlestondailymail.com

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