Hubert (Ray) Gresham
Ray Gresham, founder of Ray’s Sewing Center, San Jose, CA, entered the sewing industry in an unusual way. After serving in the Navy as a ship machinist during World War II, Ray settled back into his former job as a machinist, but being an entrepreneur at heart, he soon produced a second job for himself painting corn catches on ice machines and old sewing machines.
It wasn’t long before Ray was buying old sewing machines, re-painting them, and renting them out for $1 a week. Shortly after, Ray realized his home-based business was booming and he and his wife, Deon, joined the sewing industry full-time.
By March of 1947, the rental machine business and sales of new Pfaff machines had grown so large that the Greshams purchased a building on Park Avenue. They added the Bernina sewing machine line, as well as industrial machine rentals, which, at the time, were favored by Japanese farmers to make greenhouse covers.
For many years Ray sold and rented industrial machines and Deon, using her major in home economics, concentrated on the home sewing machine market.
In 1964, Bernina factory owner, Adette Oochee of Switzerland, visited Ray’s Sewing Machine Center to acknowledge the impressive Bernina machine sales the Greshams were generating. She learned that door-to-door sales and 10 day free trial period offers were two reasons for their success.
By 1970, Ray had over 800 rental machines in drapery and upholstery shops. Ray’s Sewing Center has always provided superior customer support and sales and has continued to win awards at different times over the past 53 years, and at times has been one of the largest Pfaff, Bernina, Baby Lock, White, New Home, and Janome dealer in the country. Ray’s received the Janome Number One Single Store Dealer Award at the 2000 Janome Institute.
Ray has always enjoyed setting-up at local fairs and demonstrating sewing and embroidery machines, many times alongside his life-long friend Bob Ritterhoff, founder of Bobette Industries.
Since the store’s beginning, the Greshams have been respected, and their advice sought out, by other industry leaders.
2001 Vacuum & Sewing Hall of Fame Inductee
UPDATE: Hubert ( Ray ) Gresham Founder of Ray's Sewing Center passed away peacefully in his family home on Sunday, September 14, 2008