This Q&A feature helps readers learn more about people living and working in the Mount Vernon business community.
This week’s Q&A profiles Sun Sew Vac owner Robert L. Hines, Jr. The shop is located in the Mount Vernon Plaza shopping center.
Sun Sew Vac has been in business for more than 37 years. The shop services the community with a wide selection of vacuums, sewing machines, carpet and hardwood cleaners, as well as sewer-friendly furniture. The business, which has seven employees, also offers repairs on sewing machines and vacuums, and hosts a variety of sewing and crafts classes. Service and repairs are performed in store, and the shop’s mechanics are all factory-trained by Pfaff, Janome, Bernina, Viking, Singer and Necchi.
Sun Sew Vac’s clientele ranges from community members in need of vaccum and/or sewing machine repairs to area universities, high schools, and businesses located up and down King Street in Old Town. The shop has even provided repairs and services for The White House.
Originally from the area, Robert graduated from Fort Hunt High School in 1973. Just two years later, he officially opened the family-owned and operated Sun Sew Vac.
Robert is married and has two daughters, who are West Potomac High School graduates. After college graduation, both girls moved back to Alexandria, and live and work in the metropolitan area.
How did you become interested in your line of work?
My father owned and operated his own shop in Old Town back when I was growing up. Starting when I was about 10 years old, I began helping out at his store. I helped rebuild motors, replace bearings and parts…back then, everything was rebuilt and repaired. He taught me the profession and trade. After high school graduation, I gave college a try for a couple years, but decided that retail was more my calling. So I opened up my own shop here in South Alexandria two years after high school graduation.
What’s an interesting aspect of your job?
Our store, it’s a true family and community business. My wife and kids have all worked here over the years. I’ve even teamed up with a lot of different students as part of area high school work programs. I’m a strong supporter of these programs, especially because a lot of kids out there are like myself: instead of being book-oriented, they are more trade-oriented. Over the years, I have had at least 100 different kids work in our store. Some have really become successful…there are a couple of air force pilots, government contractors, police officers, a colonel. It’s cool and very rewarding to know I’ve given them the building blocks they need to succeed.
What do you enjoy most about your line of work?
Being my own boss. While I still have to answer to a lot of people on a regular basis, being my own boss is something that I’ve always liked doing. It’s quite fulfilling. It also makes you feel good when you can put a couple of kids through college, and help other folks out in the community. I like being independent; it’s how I’ve been all my life.
Any local competition?
Our competition is the big box stores located along Richmond Highway. And because they have the ‘might and money’ to be able to advertise, they tend to get more people in their doors. With smaller businesses like ours, we have to get the word out that we truly have the education and knowledge about how to service vacuums and sewing machines. We’ve been trained by every one of our product manufacturers. We definitely have a deeper knowledge about these products. We also know about floor care and sewing. There’s really no one out there like us that can give the end-user the quality and education that we have to offer. We are also very proud to have the highest possible A+ rating on websites, like Angie’s List and Yelp.
Where is your favorite place to go in the Mount Vernon area?
I like to work out at the Mount Vernon Athletic Club.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy golfing and fishing.
Do you have a favorite area restaurant?
The Warehouse on King Street. I’m also a fan of the Mount Vernon Inn.
If you weren’t in this business, what would you be doing?
I would love to work with special needs children who are in need, either physically or mentally.