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Business of the Month: Gizmo Notion Corp., 160 First Avenue

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Perhaps being homebound for extended periods of time over the past couple of years has aroused for the first time your curiosity about that dusty old Singer sewing machine you inherited years ago from your grandmother; or perhaps it has re-awakened your inner Charles James, and you now need to replenish your sewing supplies and get your machine tuned-up. Either way, your first stop should be our February 2022 Business of the Month, Gizmo Notion Corp. (160 1st Avenue @ 10th Street), where you can have your sewing machine restored to working order, buy a new one, and choose among an ample selection of thread, buttons, zippers, needles, and all manner of sewing accessories, as well as trimmings and fabrics.

The affable gentleman who will be repairing your machine or otherwise guiding you in your sewing journey is Hossein Amid, a longtime local resident who came to New York from Iran in 1986. A mechanical engineer by training and a photographer by passion, Hossein found work upon arrival as a photographer. Health issues, however, forced him to reconsider his line of work; and his wife Rosa Malmed, the daughter of a tailor and an accomplished seamstress herself, encouraged him to open a sewing supply business. The couple already lived in the East Village and liked the neighborhood; so they looked for a spot nearby and, having found one, together launched Gizmo in 1990.

From the start, Gizmo offered a wide array of basic sewing supplies. It also, as luck would have it, offered Hossein a welcome opportunity to put his mechanical skills to work, repairing sewing machines for clients as well as for resale. This, along with the independence of running his own business, proved a great windfall, according to Hossein:

The reason I’m in the business is because of my wife. She loves to sew, and she is a good sewer. In the beginning, she pushed me to sell this stuff. But I work for myself. I don’t have a boss. And I enjoy fixing. Honestly! I like the challenge. And that makes me satisfied.

Beyond finding satisfaction in his new venture, Hossein also gradually found some measure of success. The store’s proximity, as well as the quality, speed, and prices of Hossein’s work, gradually earned the store a loyal following among local designers, tailor shops, and dry cleaners. Before long, he also started being retained for institutional work by places like Parsons, the Lower East Side Girls Club, LaGuardia High School, and NYU. In 2015, the Village Voice named Gizmo Best Sewing Machine Repair Shop in its Best Of edition.

The concept of the store has remained fairly constant over the past thirty years, even as the surrounding neighborhood has not. Skyrocketing rents have claimed every last one of Gizmo’s once multiple local competitors, on the one hand leaving their customers up for grabs, while also increasing the rent burden on Hossein and Rosa. Asked how he has survived, where so many others have not, Hossein had no great secret to offer: 

Working hard. I’m here six days a week, all day. And I try to make a little money.

Most recently, COVID has put Hossein’s work ethic further to the test. The uptick in customers who have rediscovered their interest in sewing or discovered it for the first time has not come close to compensating for the loss in business resulting from the precipitous decline in foot traffic, the growing shift toward online shopping, and the departure from the neighborhood of businesses, students, and designers who used patronize the shop. And yet, Hossein has reason for optimism. People are gradually coming back to the streets; people still use sewing machines; and sooner or later, those machines will break. And when they do, they’ll know to come to a man whose reputation precedes him — whose online reviews refer to him as “a knight in shining armor,” “a sewing machine repair man extraordinaire,” and “a maestro of the sewing community.” They’ll know to come to Gizmo.

For the kindness, skill, and helpful advice Gizmo Notion Corp. has offered to sewing aficionados in the neighborhood and beyond for over thirty years, we are thrilled to name them our February 2022 Business of the Month.

Stop by at 160 First Avenue or visit their website.

As we left Gizmo, we learned that Hossein never lost his passion for street photography. Upon hearing the location of our offices, his eyes lit up:

I have so many pictures of that church, St. Mark’s Church. I want to show you a picture I took from your building. Even, I can send it. It’s a little artistic in my opinion.

We agree.

What special small business would you like to see featured next? Just click here to nominate our next one. Thank you! #shoplocalnyc

Here is a map of all our Businesses of the Month:

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