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Riverhead Vacuum and Sewing Center | Photography by Tara Smith

There’s much more than meets the eye at the Riverhead Vacuum and Sewing Center on Main Street.

To passersby, it looks like an ordinary repair shop advertising vacuums and sewing machines for sale.

Inside, however, you’ll find a sewer’s paradise, for crafty connoisseurs and beginners alike. One side of the store is dedicated entirely to sewing and quilting, with a large display of thread in every color imaginable, scissors, rulers, machines and dainty patterned fabrics neatly arranged in bolts.

The shop frequently hosts classes like Quilting 101 and 102 as well as open sewing sessions. “You just bring your machine and sew to your heart’s content,” explained longtime employee Janine Doran, who teaches many of the shop’s quilting courses. 

And fear not: There’s no gatekeeping here. Between kits ready-made for beginners and a tight-knit community ready to share their wisdom, you’ll be encouraged along the way — even if you haven’t sewn since home economics class.

“Sewing is a very social activity,” Doran said. “Everything gets shared. It’s very nice — and quilters are just lovely people.”

The business — opened by Gary Kossman in the early 1980s and now run by his daughter, Kellie Kossman — has remained steadfast on Main Street, through periods of economic uncertainty and the pandemic. They also have a shop on Jobs Lane in Southampton that the family opened in 1962.

Kossman’s son, Matt, 29, recently joined the family business as a partner. “The shop will be around for another generation,” she said, beaming.

Vacuum sales, especially for coveted Miele machines, remain a large part of the business as well as sewing machine sales and repairs for both.

“We get a lot of people who say ‘This is my grandmother’s machine; it’s been in the attic, it hasn’t been used,’ ” said Doran. “It’s wonderful to see the old machines. People don’t want to give them up. It’s sentimental.”

Doran’s favorite part, though, is passing on the tradition of quilting, which for generations has preserved familial memories and commemorated milestones like a housewarming or new baby.

Classes range from $5 for an open sit-and-sew session to $99 for the five-week Quilting 101 class, which begins in early January. The introductory course explores the basics of contemporary quilt making, from pinning to adding batting and backing.

“I love to teach, especially when children come,” Doran said. “It’s fantastic to pass it on to a whole new generation.”

Riverhead Vacuum and Sewing Center is located at 31 East Main St. in Riverhead. Sign up for classes online at