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Longtime Missoula business sees uptick during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 4:24 PM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-05 11:12:41-05

We’ve heard countless stories of businesses struggling this year, but for a select few industries, this year marked one of the best.

MTN News sat down with the owner of Bob’s Sew and Vac, a household name in Missoula’s sewing circle.

Sewing machines, quilters, clickers, splitters, stitchers -- when it comes to the world of sewing, Bob Snodgrass has it all. “Virtually every type of sewing machine there is -- we service it."

Bob’s Sew and Vac may ring a bell if you live in or around Missoula. For 41 years, his has been the go-to shop for sewing machine sales, service, and instruction.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were doing well. The industry keeps evolving and we look at the sewing machine as the ultimate power tool,” Snodgrass said.

The age-old art form and industrial tool was traditionally associated with a very specific group, according to Snodgrass. “My clientele in the past has been an older generation.”

But Snodgrass said in the past year the industry took a turn, “now I'm seeing way more young people and men sewing.”

Not only has the clientele shifted, but sewing, in general, has also been rediscovered by beginners and experts alike.

“When the pandemic hit, we saw a huge increase in sewing machine repairs because people were home more. Maybe they got out their trusty sewing machine and either it worked good or it didn’t,” Snodgrass observed. So, then we were seeing those repairs come in and we were swamped.

The renewed interest in sewing rippled through the entire industry.

“Based on previous year’s production sales, we were totally caught off guard. There are some price points of machines, entry-level machines [that] I was told oversold 900%,” Snodgrass explained.

At a time when most business owners are struggling to survive, Snodgrass doesn’t take his industry’s success lightly.

“Being a small business person in Missoula, it's not easy. You know, it is what it is. You know, you gotta work hard for everything,” Snodgrass said.

“But it has been a boom for the sewing machine industry and I just happen to be in that industry at a time when sewing machines are stepping to the forefront,” he added. “You know, sewing machines in one way have come to the rescue.”

Snodgrass says he's seen a lot of customers during the pandemic who've picked up sewing in order to make masks.