Teddy Oran Rookstool was born December 4, 1941, to Hubert and Mae Rookstool in Chariton, IA, growing up with five siblings predominantly in Custer County, NE. Together the family ran a general store with Mae also teaching school.
Growing up as a child, the family did not have much, but they had each other. Ted never strayed from his roots as a man who would give up anything of his if it meant someone else was happy. It was at a young age that he groomed his positive "customer first" attitude and problem solving skills which proved to be a model for sewing and vacuum dealers throughout the country. In high school, Ted enjoyed working on and racing custom built hot rods while holding many track records throughout the Midwest. He was only 17 when Hubert became ill and could no longer fully oversee the family store in North Platte, NE. The store had been in business since 1954 and while Ted was still in high school, he was able to move classes around in an effort to manage the store while continuing to earn his high school degree.
Ted sold sewing machines door to door by demonstrating three or four machines in a potential customer's home at a time, often logging hundreds of miles in his car a day. While the work was not easy, he learned at a very young age patience, behind a steady foot and hands, was key in demonstrating just how easy sewing machines were to use. To this day, Ted's approach of listening to the customer and their needs, along with the care he takes with each individual, makes him an icon to so many who are fortunate enough to take in Ted's performance as he demonstrates a product.
His stores grew to eight locations by the 1970's in Nebraska and Kansas employing many friends and family members. To date, Ted has employed more than 40 direct family members including his parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, cousins, children and grandchildren. Many friends originally employed by Ted went on to open their own sewing and vacuum stores, among other stores where Ted helped them start their own path.
Ted eventually became an ambassador for many products in the industry and was the first if not one of the first people to sell and manufacturer microwaves, ceiling fans, infrared heaters and many other items. Also during this time, Ted and his business partner and brother-in-law, Ron Von Behren who also partnered with Ted on the hot rods in high school, started manufacturing an upholstery machine that is still manufactured and sold today. Through the 1990's, Ted took calculated risks never seen before in the industry and had grown his business to include enough wholesale and retail sales for SINGER sewing machines (among other products) to be the largest independent sewing machine distributor in the world.
Ted's commitment to business, family and the industry paved the way for many to follow. He continues to provide VDTA•SDTA members quality products from his current company, SUNHEAT International, from a family owned and operated business that puts the customer first.
2015 Hall of Fame Inductee