Grist Columnist: Is A.I. Taking Over?

I often grouse around the office that technology is not making life easier at all, but in fact is making it harder. True, when I think back on starting when faxes were the newest thing, I know computers and the web have made our work much more efficient. Customers can come to us from anywhere in the world simply by pulling their smartphone out. We needed a lot more folks when we started in 1989 to do just about everything we do.

The problem is – besides what the workers are doing who have lost their jobs to technology – that those of us left on the job have to work like switch engines to keep up with the new demands that technology has foisted on us. Almost everything used to funnel in and funnel out by mail or telephone and only within business hours. No more. Now everybody wants to know where their package is, why it takes so long, send me the invoice, where’s the receipt, why was shipping so much, and on and on, 24/7, coming by mail (you plain folk), phone, fax, email – and thank goodness we haven’t gone Twitter. BTW, I’ve noticed, too, that we’ve already got driverless cars – the ones where the drivers have their eyes on their phones rather than the road. I’ve been rearended by one of those. I think we’re all getting rearended by technology as we’ve willingly enslaved ourselves to it. A.I. (artificial intelligence) ain’t even here yet, but it’s looking as if the chips are stacked against us. (Get it? “Chips – microchips” Ha! I challenge A.I. to come up with such brilliant humor.)

Well, it’s up to us to make the best of it. Some advantages of our slick website are always knowing current prices, finding parts diagrams for your machines, or finding a mechanic or suppliers for goods we don’t carry et al. And better yet, here’s a no brainer, artificial or otherwise: see page 13 for 10% savings on popular products with our current online coupon.

And as always, thanks for your business!

John F. Rebrovick

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #253 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

Online Sewing Factory Auction

Mill Direct, Inc.
2110 Highway 12, Benson, MN, 55305

Online Bidding Ends: Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 at 2:00 P.M. EST
Inspection: Tuesday, January 30th from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Featuring: Fabric Cutters: (11) Gerbercutter, Maimin, Wolf Blazer, Wolf Pacer, Eastman, USM, Etc. · Embroidery Machines: (3) Barudan Mdl’s BEHJ-UP-12 (12) Head, BERX-UP-12 (12) Head, 106UF (6) Head · Sewing Machines: (65) Brother, Juki, Mitsubishi Singer, Merrow, Cote Brothers, Union Special, Kansai, Wilcox & Gibbs, Rimoldi, and Others Including:  Double Needle, Industrial 5-Thread, Programmable, Buttonhole, Single Needle, Top & Bottom, Cover stitch, Overlock Etc.  · Lockstitch Machines: (7) Juki Lockstitch Buttonhole & 7-Needle Lockstitch Feed · Also Including: Foot Operated Punches, Grommet Presses, (50) Shamrock Meese 4-Wheel Cloth Carts, Gerber Traveling Heads, Pneumatic Lift Tables, Assorted Size Work Benches, Carts, Wood Stands, Plus More!

CLICK HERE to enter auction site.

Grist Columnist: 29 and holding…

Some years ago Jerry Lee Lewis had an uncharacteristically mellow song that described a fellow who was “39 and holding – holding everything he can.” Well, that’s a melancholy 39, and frankly that looks quite young from my 59 years. So when SouthStar hits year 29 next January 1, why, we’re still youngsters!

The truth is, time does fly when you’re having fun and it seems like just yesterday that co-founder Bill Starks and I opened the doors at SouthStar. Not that some days haven’t seemed awfully long, but the years have just clipped on by.

Our first office was in a spot of town so bad that we were broken into three times in a year – even with steel doors and a burglar alarm. The manager of a paper recycling business across the street was kidnapped one afternoon when he was locking up, forced to drain his bank account at an ATM, then was part of a getaway that included the hijacking of a city bus before he was finally released, unharmed but with quite a story to tell.

We had some very slim days in those early years that involved skipped paychecks for us owners and at one point, suggesting to our very first employee Robbie Matthews that he apply for a job at the Wal-Mart store, a fairly new business in town then that seemed to have more upside potential. Now 29 years later Robbie’s still doing shipping for us part-time and a better man you’ve never met, so I’m glad Wally World didn’t get hold of him.

Sadly our next hire, Evalene Wilson, was not with us long, succumbing to an illness in our second year. She was a joyful and loving soul, one who made it fun to show up at work. She died on the same day, in the same hospital where my son was born. Which says something about the cyle of life. And reminds me, though you’ve got to make money to stay in business, you don’t remember each dollar; but if you’re lucky, you’ve got a lot of good people to count along the way.

John F. Rebrovick

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #252 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

Grist Columnist: Larnt along the way…

The first indication that you don’t know it all is thinking that you do. Some in my family might dispute it, but I do not claim to know it all. However, when you’re getting along in the latter half of life, if you’ve been paying attention at all, you’ve larnt a few things. I mean to impart some of what I’ve larnt along the way to you youngsters now.

You are a business; act like it. You may think if you draw a paycheck from someone else that you’re just an employee. Not so. You own your labor and you are selling it to your employer. In other words your employer is your customer. Make sure what you’re selling them is worth what they’re paying you, and if they don’t value it high enough, sell it somewhere else.

If you do have a bona fide business going where you’re the boss, make sure you have someone knowledgeable from the get-go minding your tax obligations. The government is merciless about collecting their money. They will find you and they will put you out of business and take whatever property they can find if you are not paying your taxes properly, including ESPECIALLY payroll taxes.

(Note: The day after I wrote this Grist post, I found a news report out of Dallas about the IRS seizing the assets of a small sewing business without due process in a dispute over taxes. CLICK HERE to see it. / JFR)

Education is important and all that, but these days college is a big ripoff. If you have a talent for design or sewing or whatever, pursue it to the hilt while you are young, energetic, and relatively unencumbered. Get your degree later if it will help. Only doctors, lawyers, engineers & such really need the college before they can get out and do anything in life.

If you’re familiar with Ayn Rand, you know there are three types of people in this world: the producers, the looters, and the moochers. Don’t be a sniveling, whining member of the latter two categories. And be careful about who you associate with lest it rub off on you.

Sorry, that’s all I have room for. You’ll have to “larn” the rest yourself. But I will give you one more tip: Life is made to be enjoyed – larn to laugh about it!

John F. Rebrovick

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #251 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

SewBiz Help Wanted: Cut & Sew Process Engineer

Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Job Description:  Cut and Sew Process Engineer          
Position Summary:
The Process Engineer is responsible for developing standards for all cut and sew manufacturing operations, analyzing compliance to standards and identifying opportunities for improvement.  The primary objective is to increase productivity by eliminating waste and non-value added (unproductive) operations and improving the effective utilization of resources.
  • Organize, implement and maintain production process flow
  • Develop working instructions, workmanship standards and process documents and ensure they are followed
  • Improve continually existing operations for increased quality, efficiency and cost savings
  • Investigate operational problems affecting production and report recommended solutions
  • Conduct process capability studies and eliminate failure costs
  • Manage manufacturing documentation i.e. BOM, BOL, accurate work instructions process procedures and manufacturing standards (SMV’s for all operations).
  • Work with Product Design Engineering on:
    • o   Design for cost
    • o   Design for manufacturability
    • o   Design for assembly
    • Establish training and quality culture based on continuous improvement
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering
  • 5+ years in the cut and sew industry is preferable
  • Computer skills, ERP,CAD and CAD/CAM experience
  • Proven analytical and problem solving skills
  • Mechanical aptitude
Success Criteria:
  • Documented value of annual process improvements and cost savings to be equal to or greater than two times the Process Engineer’s annual salary.
If you are someone who enjoys working in a creative, fast pace environment, and would like to join our team, please submit your resume and cover letter to:
Like us on Facebook  Follow us on Twitter  Find us on Google+
We thank all applicants for their interest in Hyperlite,
however, only those selected for interview will be contacted.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is a rapidly growing outdoor gear company with a mission to optimize outdoor adventuring for everyone.  We value our employees and encourage life-long learning, fostering everyone’s professional growth.
*     *     *
Listing above is courtesy of SEAMS –

Grist Columnist: WANTED/REWARD – Your SewBiz Essay

bulletin-249If you’ve been in the business of sewing a while, no doubt you’ve got a good story to tell. If so, we want it!

We’re working on a new project here. It’s not quite a catalog and not quite a textbook, but both together and then some. Called “The SewBiz Owner’s Manual™,” we plan to publish the first edition in the coming year.

The intent is to produce a reference book you can keep on the shelf to share in your business for training, research, and sourcing. Not many people grow up in this industry as in the good old days, so there’s a real knowledge gap between wanting to produce a sewn product and getting it to market.

Thus the SewBiz Owner’s Manual™ includes a narrative section on production organization, equipment, and tools. Then a resources section listing industry associations, trade shows, vendors, and such. Then a catalog section showing common parts & supplies. And finally an appendix with helpful charts like sewing machine needle sizes, stitch types, thread info, metric conversion, and so forth.

We’re building the first edition from the ground up! And that’s where you come in. If you’ve got a story to tell that will be instructive and inspirational to others in the sewing business, we’d love to include it in the narrative section with your byline and photo. Before you get to writing a big article, however, please send your ideas for an article in a hundred words or less to me at the email address below. For those submissions we are ultimately able to use in the Manual – 1,000 words, more or less – we’ll pay $100 each.

I look forward to hearing from you!

John F. Rebrovick

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #249 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

Grist Columnist: Technology

bulletin-248Not exactly being a millennial but father to two of them, I spend a lot of time wondering lately if technology is really doing us much good as a species.

Sure, I know that things that come from science like vaccines and antibiotics have improved our life conditions and life expectancy significantly. The gasoline engine, cordless tools, the internet, cell phones, you name it, they’ve all made life more convenient for us in a way.

Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are the coming things, of course. I’ve been watching automation applied to the apparel industry for three decades and you know what, I’m not too worried about robots taking over the sewing business. It’s still a craft based on fashion, so only a human being working needle and thread can achieve the infinite variety needed, and no AI would come up with some of the things I see on runways – too much logic, not enough whimsy.

But even with its limits, there’s no denying that technology is taking over more and more of our lives. When’s the last time you couldn’t think of a name and DIDN’T Google it to find out? When’s the last time you saw people in a line, most of whom WEREN’T staring down at their smart phone screens? When’s the last time someone asked if you’d heard the news, and you HADN’T, because you always know instantly what’s going on?

On the other hand, when has a piece of techonology smiled at you, looked you in the eye, wowed you with a clever idea?

Seems to me, as technology is more dominant in our lives, these are the kinds of things that get lost. And that’s why I’m glad I’m serving an industry that’s all about human creativity – with technology there just to assist.

John F. Rebrovick

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #248 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

Made in USA: Men’s Hiking Boots & Men’s Work Boots

Despite what NAFTA & other trade policies have done to our beloved American SewBiz industry, with a little effort you can still find just about anything you need sewn right here in the U.S.A. Here are a couple of menswear items for which I can personally vouch. I like them so much I just ordered a replacement pair of both of these boots.

says-thorogoodThe first is a hiking boot made by Thorogood. I hike from four to eight miles virtually every day at my home out with the hillbillies and hound dogs in the Tennessee sticks. My trails are steep, rutted, and rocky and include a couple of shallow creek crossings.

My first pair of Thorogoods lasted two years and would have lasted longer if I had taken better care of them. You should never use hiking boots as work boots, especially pushing a shovel. You are liable to ruin the sole. I did exactly that. But that was about a year ago and I’ve been wearing them with one bad sole since then and they’re still the most comfortable, durable boots imaginable.

The other thing I should have done – and this applies for the work boots below as well – is to rub saddle soap on them regularly. Over their lifetime I probably soaped them about twice. The saddle soap helps deflect moisture. Eventually there’s no hope for deflecting moisture if you don’t put some sort of protectant on the leather.

Other than my sloth about caring for them, the Thorogood boots are a joy to wear. The only drawbacks are that they are a bit on the warm side in summer and they are not waterproof, meaning that even if you have soaped them well, if you submerge them above the toe in a creek they will fill with water. But for surface hiking, they’re perfect. And they provide very good traction on snow and ice. To get to the Amazon listing for the Thorogood hiking boot, CLICK HERE.

says-chippewaThe second made in U.S.A. boot is a work boot made by Chippewa, a Justin brand. They even come with little metal flag slides on the laces. And they ARE waterproof and have good strong soles for shoveling and rough use. The leather smells so darn good out of the box you’ll just about want to eat ’em.

Again, they should be soaped regularly. I do a lot of digging on my land, virtually every single weekend, and these boots have held up three years through all kinds of wetness, mud, clay, and abuse. The upper finally split from the sole on one of them or I’d still be wearing my old pair. To get to the Amazon listing for the Chippewa work boot, CLICK HERE.

So listen, if you’re a guy and need good boots or a gal who wants to make your man really happy with a nice gift, take my advice, try these and support some American SewBizzers in the process.

John Arra

Grist Columnist: What’s Next?

ssc-bulcover-247When I consider that 2016 rings in our 27th year in business, I feel old! I know that a lot of you customers weren’t even a twinkle in your parents’ eyes yet when we’d already been pushing all our sew-biz doodads quite a while. Yet, there’s something about running a small business-like raising a family-that makes everything that came before seem like it happened only yesterday.

When we opened in January 1989, fax machines were still the newest thing and the internet was inter-not. Hundreds of millions of people were still living under Soviet communism. 9-11 was still 11 years away and now it’s already 15 years behind us. And I can remember as clear as today Reagan telling Gorbachev to bring down that wall-and it did come down, hooray!-but also, the sickening moment I realized those buildings really were coming down in New York.

Yet through all the ups and downs we kept putting one foot in front of the other and days turned into months and months to years and a quarter century flew right by us.

So now I’m here to tell you from my lofty perch as an older, wizened business person: Do exactly that. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you and your business will get somewhere in this world. Don’t let anything stop you, not an egg-sucking bad economy, not a devious rotten rival, not fears about terrorism nor cataclysm nor affluism. Heck, you want a little affluism, don’t you? You want to be tested and succeed, don’t you? Otherwise it’s a moot point. And if you fail once, that’s just that time. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

If you will do that, I guarantee you will succeed. Only death can stop you. Well, only death and taxes. Make sure you have a good accountant! And some day you’ll look back, too, and wonder how you got where you are so fast.

Thank you for supporting our business, and good luck with yours in 2016!

John F. Rebrovick

SouthStar’s new Bulletin #247 is now available. If you are a current customer or a recent addition to our mailing list, it should be showing up in a mailbox near you soon. If not, you can request a copy by writing us or click here to download a copy. Thank you!

Nashville Sewing Academy Opens!

SouthStar is proud to support the efforts of the Nashville Fashion Alliance, Catholic Charities of Tennessee, and Omega Apparel. Congratulations to the team for successfully launching the Nashville Sewing Academy! We’ve been needing this for years! Click on the image above to see a report from local Channel 4, WSMV-TV.