As a builder of not just one great business but two, Van Nicholson represents the best of the vacuum and sewing industry. Van grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and began his career selling Cutco knives and later advertising for a large FM radio station. A good friend in the vac 'n sew industry suggested that he find something more lucrative and encouraged him to try selling his products for one day. In that day, Van sold two sewing machines and one vacuum cleaner, which earned him enough money to buy the washer and dryer his family would need with a baby on the way. Van soon became an award-winning salesman for Electro-Hygiene. After that, he and his friend opened the Grand Valley Sewing Center in Grand Rapids.
A few years later, Stan Warble, the owner of a competing sewing center called Van with a proposition. Stan told Van of his plans to retire and also his wish to find a successor for Gall Sewing & Vac Centers. When he presented Van with a formal offer, Van admitted he did not have the money to buy the business. Stan responded, saying, "I don't want money for the business; I only want to be paid the value of the inventory," and with that they negotiated a 7 year payment contract.
Van's first day at Gall Sewing & Vac was July 1, 1969. By November 15, 1969, Van paid the business off in its entirety! Gall Sewing & Vac has not stopped growing to this day and is an award-winning business with stores in multiple cities. Nick Lucarelli of Luke's Sewing Centers, LLC contributes Van's success to his stellar attitude: "I've never heard Van say anything negative about another dealer or customer," says Luke. Van himself credits all of his success to the finest group of loyal, outstanding employees anyone could ever have, especially his 3 children – Laura, Ryan, and Leah – and most of all his wife Maureen for "putting up with him" for over 51 years.
Van stands as a great ambassador for the sewing and vacuum industry. Skip Bewley, Senior District Sales Manager at Janome, recalls, "Van always would go the extra mile. If he saw or heard of a customer that really wanted a machine and could not get it, Van would go out of his way to place that machine on layaway and allow the customer to come to his store and use the machine until they could pay it off."
Van retired in 2010 and sold the business to long-time Vice President of the corporation, Margaret Rosam. He has continued to work with them as a Marketing and Sales consultant when he's not fishing, hunting, or traveling.
2016 Vacuum & Sewing Hall of Fame Inductee