The other day I was taken by Times Design Director Tom Bodkin to an unassuming, narrow storefront on West 38th street in the bustling Garment Center / Port Authority / New York Times area around 8th Avenue. Hecht is the name of the shop, and once inside, this Sewing Machine & Motor Co., Inc. comes alive with gems from the past.
The proprietor Steven Hecht is the proud collector of all things mechanical (his 94 year old father is the skilled repairer of all things machine) and the shop, the high walls and narrow 1920s-era space is filled with everything from mannequins to vintage sewing apparatus, with lights, lamps, buffers and stainless Mack Truck dogs sprinkled all around (and on two floors too).
Hecht is the resource for art directors, scenic designers, prop masters and you name it, looking for this and that to be transformed into conceptual editorial statements and representational examples of bygone times. His shop was been used as sets for films and TV, including “White Collar,” and by actors whose names would make you swoon.
“What’s your favorite piece?,” Steve asked me. Thinking it was a trick question, I responded “the miniature chair pin cushions.” Then I paused, and added “and the row of vintage flash light (torches).” He pointed above my head to a canvas belt of 30 caliber bullets that once fed a Browning machine gun in World War I. “See that,” he said with a knowing smile, “that’s were the term ‘given ’em the whole 9 yards’ comes from.” Every piece in the shop had a story, and Steve knew them all.
Between catching my own loss of breath and focusing my rapidly roving eyes, I snapped a few photos here. But for the full experience visit Hecht at 304 West 38th Street and be transported.
(Frank Rich’s final Times column on Nightly Heller here.)