During the depression year of 1932, they ventured out on their own and opened Missouri Sewing Machine Company at 927 Truman Road. Times were difficult and not very many sewing machines were available due to the metal shortage from the War. They found themselves having to knock the paint off of old treadle machines and put motors on them in order to make a sale. The Garment District in Kansas City was busy making gun belts and uniforms, and used Missouri Sewing Machine Company to setup and service their machines. You had to be willing to work long, strenuous hours for little in return. Walter always believed that their efforts would someday be rewarded.
Ann and Walter’s son, Bob Catenhauser, originally went to work for Singer at the age of nineteen. He said, “Those were the days when you got your hands dirty selling door to door. The motto was ‘knock, knock, knock…sell, sell, sell.” He was quickly promoted as one of Singer’s youngest managers, and spent the next few years living in Quincy, Illinois, until he joined the army. After World War II, he returned to join his father at Missouri Sewing Machine Company. Thus began the involvement of family and business that has continued to flourish for over 56 years.
During the 1950’s Walter and Bob were able to purchase the building they had been leasing, and decided to incorporate the company. Industrial sewing machines were added to their product line because of the increase in demand for such machines in Kansas City. By the 1970’s, the third generation of this family business began working for the company. Curt Catenhauser, Robert and Vesta’s only son, opened up a new location at 103rd and Wornall. His sister, Vesta Hayden, realized the importance of adding sewing classes, and started offering them at the new store. Her husband, Bud Hayden, remained at the downtown location, helping with sewing machine sales and services.
Even though the original location has changed to 1011 Truman Road, and Robert Catenhauser, and Vesta and Bud Hayden have retired, the company continues to thrive with now four locations and over 20 employees. Curt Catenhauser continues to carry on the tradition of the family business along with his wife Christy, nephew Jeffrey Allison, sons Martin and Charlie Catenhauser, and daughter Carolyn Lindquist, who all work for the company.
Besides going from a small storefront during the Depression with only 2 employees to four locations and 20 employees, Missouri Sewing Machine Company has seen many changes over the past 70 years. Mainly because the customer’s needs have also changed. Its not just about mending or making simple clothes any more; it’s about home decorating, embroidering, and quilting. We have been able to follow the needs of our customers into the future by offering commercial and computerized machines. In addition, we also have a large mail-order operation. We feel very confident in the outlook of our company. Our products are continuously changing in order to offer innovative and easier sewing techniques. The family of Missouri Sewing Machine Company remains dedicated to the continuation of customer service and community growth as we look forward to the next generation joining us.