SEMINOLE — Worn out sofas — and their owners — throughout town may be grieving after the proprietors of one of Seminole’s longest-running upholstery shops closed after nearly 50 years in business.
When brothers John and Jim Schramek opened Seminole Upholstery while still in their 20s, they had already served long apprenticeships in the trade. Their father, Joseph, got into the business in the late 1930s and made sure his eight children helped out.
“We all grew up in it as soon as we could push a broom,” recalls John Schramek. While attending Dixie Hollins High School, he delivered furniture for his dad and “tore things apart.” After graduation, he went to work with brother David, who had an upholstery shop on 49th Street in St. Petersburg. He worked there until 1972, when he noticed an upholstery business was for sale. The late owner had run it for about 25 years, and John and Jim bought it from the widow. Four years later, in 1976, they purchased a house at 10713 70th Ave., where Seminole Upholstery prospered.
John cut and sewed material while Jim did the upholstering, giving beloved furniture a new life. They worked on household furnishings and restaurant booths. They even built booths for the Suncoast Playboy Club in St. Petersburg in the early 1980s and a one-of-a-kind circular sofa with a tufted back for a woman in Belleair. They never ventured into automobile upholstery because, John says, “we were staying busy enough with just furniture.”
The key to the success of the business was “just working long hours and taking care of customers,” he says. “If there was a complaint, we’d go out and take care of it.”
“It was nice to see a finished product,” he added. “And it was nice to hear from people that really appreciated it.”
Last year was pivotal for the brothers. Coronavirus dropped business about 75 percent for a couple of months, John said. More importantly, the brothers had birthdays. John turned 71 and Jim 69, and they decided to retire. Family history, however, would not repeat itself. Their children were well-established in other careers and had no interest in taking up the scissors and sewing machine. So the building went up for sale. FloTec Pools, a repair service of a different kind, now calls it home.
In the months after announcing Seminole Upholstery was closing, John says many people begged them to stay open. “It was kind of a good feeling. Mainly, we liked to let everyone know that we closed down because of retirement and that we appreciated all the business that we got from all our customers over the years.” Seminole Upholstery’s last day of business was Jan. 15.
That’s not necessarily the end. A nephew, Alan Schramek, owns another upholstery shop, Schramek and Sons in St. Petersburg, which he inherited from another of John’s brothers, Tom. The “and Sons” on the sign hints at possibilities. The Schramek family legacy may not be over.