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Aug. 9, 2022

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Working in Clark County: Gary Rael, general manager, vacuum & sewing machine shop

By , Columbian staff writer
3 Photos
Gary Rael, general manager of House of Sewing Machines & Vacuums, works at his shop in Hazel Dell last week.
Gary Rael, general manager of House of Sewing Machines & Vacuums, works at his shop in Hazel Dell last week. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Gary Rael has seen a resurgence of interest in sewing locally over the past 10 years.  This may be why he services or repairs 150 sewing machines on average each month at his shop in Hazel Dell. Rael also travels several times a year to industry conferences to learn the ins and outs of manufacturers’ new models, actually deconstructing, then reassembling them so he can help sewing enthusiasts keep doing what they love to do. Whether the machines are new state-of-the-art models for die-hard quilters or vintage reconditioned ones for beginners, Rael has worked on most types in his 25 years on the job. “There are a lot of machines out there,” he says. “The flow never stops.”

Name: Gary Rael

Residence Neighborhood: Northeast Portland’s Gateway district

Business Name: House of Sewing and Vacuums, 6400 Highway 99, Suite P, 360-695-9231. www.houseofsewingmachinesandvacuums.net

Age: 49

Educational/professional background: I was born and raised in northern New Mexico and moved to the Northwest shortly after graduation from high school. I’ve always been mechanically inclined and worked odd jobs through high school.

How you got started in your business: We moved to Vancouver since we had family in area. This was just a job I stumbled across in November 1990. I’ve been here ever since.

Personal/business philosophy: Treat people– whether on a professional level or a personal one — the way you’d like to be treated. Sounds simple, but it’s a good base for any relationship.

Most rewarding part of job: Solving issues that customers believed couldn’t be “cured.” Customers can grow very attached to their machines, and the last thing they want to hear is “it can’t be fixed.” I’ll take the challenge. Sure, there are some that are truly finished — but not many.

Most challenging part of job: Time is a huge challenge. You can only fix a machine correctly so quickly. There is no set time frame. Machines are all treated differently, stored differently, used differently. Some parts of the procedure take longer. And there’s lots of machines out there.

Best feature of your Clark County community: Clark County still feels small town despite the tremendous growth. I see the same faces at the bank, restaurants and gas stations that I visit.

Your favorite travel destination and type: I’m a road-trip guy. I guess your adventures determine your transport, but I try to enjoy the ride, too.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: Probably the giant outdoor superstores: Cabelas, Sportsman’s Warehouse. And I enjoy the tremendous selection of food carts around.

Hobbies: I always have an old car or truck or something around I tinker with. I enjoy four-wheelers, fishing, camping, the outside. I’ve got a couple big dogs who run the show.

Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: I’d like to move to Washington. Time to get out of the middle of the city, find somewhere a little more rural.

One word to describe yourself: How about “stubborn?” In the best of ways!

Person you’d most like to meet: Richard Petty. This goes back to my childhood. I was a big NASCAR fan at a very early age. Abnormally so. I knew who was driving what, motor specs, tire specs — crazy stuff for a 8 year old. Petty was, and still is, the King.

Columbian staff writer

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