N. J. “Nick” Tacony
Nicholas J. Tacony envisioned and created the largest, most diversified American supply, distribution and marketing resource serving the independent sewing machine and vacuum dealer. His example inspired and furthered the industry.
After serving in the Navy during World War II, Nick returned to his home in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1946, with savings of just $1,000 he started his sales and service operation from the basement of his home. In the early postwar period, be saw the need and demand for replacement home sewing machines and the potential it represented. Since factories had not resumed production of new machines, Nick looked to rebuilding and electrifying treadle machines to capitalize on the opportunity. Nick found sources for motors, lights, wiring and other materials required and purchased in sufficient quantities to supply his needs and have some extra inventory.
Other fledging dealers in the greater St. Louis area began to go to “Nick’s Place” as a local source for parts and supplies. Soon these same dealers came to depend on him to supply them on an as needed basis - Tacony Corporation had its beginnings. The first masthead was Western Sewing Machine Distributors. Soon after, a companion company, under the name Tacony Distributors was established and became one of the first distributors of the new European zigzag machines in the country.
As his company grew, Nick increased inventories, recruited talented people to provide dealer training, promotions and an expanded customer base. Nick had a special concern for budding dealers and took great satisfaction in watching them grow and prosper. Good service was vital to these dealers who in many cases worked with small or no inventory. They depended on Nick to provide them with merchandise quick delivery
It was not unusual for Nick to personally deliver to a local dealer’s store or take an order to the bus station to help a dealer. Untold numbers of dealers will remember the helping hand that Nick always extended. Tacony was a pioneer in providing dealers with technical information and current product catalogs. In addition, toll-free phone order systems were established before WATS lines were available. When WATS became available, Tacony was first again. Tacony was the first in the industry to employ the wide use of computers for an overall improvement in conducting business. Tacony always supported the industry trade associations by displaying in their trade shows and sponsoring various seminars and contributing to the trade publications.
By 1965, Nick had established a well-respected organization with a strong customer base throughout the country. To serve these customers better, Nick began to build a true coast-to-coast distribution system. Although Nick was a very ambitious person, he would never move into a city where there was an incumbent distributor present. His method for expanding into new markets was by acquisition of existing companies. When a company was acquired, it was Nick’s practice to retain all of that company’s personnel. He never wanted to be the cause of anyone losing his job. Nick felt that people and their talents were the most valuable part of any acquisition.
Over a 15 year period, spanning from 1951 to 1966, his goal was accomplished. During this period a total of four highly respected firms became Tacony regional offices and distribution centers. Nick Tacony encouraged dealers to diversify and take advantage of new products and consumer trends that would complement a dealer’s core products.
Through the years, Tacony introduced and provided promotions on products that enabled dealers to earn extra profits. Tacony was among the first to introduce ceiling fans to be sold through independent specialty dealers. Ceiling fans have since grown into an industry of their own.
In the late 1970’s, Nick Tacony was successful in negotiating the exclusive distribution rights to the Baby Lock serger sewing machine for North America. This accomplishment led to the greatest advancement for the sewing industry since the introduction of the zigzag sewing machine. Tacony was the first company in the country to recognize and introduce the serger as a viable alternate household sewing machine. The Baby Lock was previously marketed as a small industrial machine targeted toward the commercial trade. The emergence of the household serger provided a whole new market for the dealer and replaced profits lost to sagging sales of conventional machines.
Nick Tacony possessed immense talent with boundless energy and took great joy in working. He is remembered as a totally honest and unselfish person who would freely give his caring counsel to customer and competitor alike. He envied no one and sincerely wanted everyone to do well. In return, he enjoyed the highest respect and affection of all who knew him.
1994 Vacuum & Sewing Hall of Fame Inductee