It is nestled between Pennsylvania’s rolling hills, with a fast-flowing creek running in the bottom of the valley. Felton, PA, isn’t known for much other than being a landmark on your way to other places. Five hundred six people form the Borough in York County, Pennsylvania. The North Branch Muddy Creek is just on the edge of town. If you follow the Creek will eventually bring you to the Susquehanna River. Its small-town charms and the quiet appeal brought David to the area with his wife Rose, in 1983. But that’s not where our story begins.

1950, May, New Jersey, David was born, and his family didn’t start with much. Moving around constantly, it wasn’t long until the family headed to Baltimore in 1960, where his father Grover Tharp opened a sewing machine store that would sell and repair sewing machines. Grover wanted his Son to work with him in sales, but David took to the repair and service more. Even though his family had roots in Baltimore, that didn’t stop his father from moving around. David remembered they once moved to the house next door when his father disagreed with the landlord.

The workshop

He eventually left his father’s company to work for New York Sewing machine exchange, where, you guessed it, he repaired, consulted, and traveled across America.

David’s life has always been about sewing machines, thanks to his father. Other than his valued military service for the Air Force from 1970-74, David has consistently worked repairing or consulting in matters related to sewing machines throughout his life. Working on projects for New York Sewing Machine Exchange, he’s helped with parachutes for the military. He’s worked on equipment for Navel Research, and apparatus relating to our Space Agency, NASA. His Father Grover even published a book in 1977 titled “You Can Repair Your Own Sewing Machine.”

Excerpt From Grovers Book. Read the whole book

David started his own repair business called, oddly enough, David’s Repair Service, in 1993, after moving to Felton with his Wife, Rose. She also is an accomplished sewer, (yes that’s the correct terminology, we checked.)  Rose likely sews with the worlds most well maintained sewing machine. David enjoyed talking about the entertaining and sometimes scandalous history of Americas Early sewing machine companies. He spoke about the womanizer Isaac Singer marrying multiple women at the same time and naming over 24 children to five different wives in his will. David’s Wife lovingly spoke of his accomplishments, setting up factories in California, Repairing machines that are used to make Pouches for Astronauts, Sew Passports, Once he repaired sewing machines on USNS Comfort. The same ship that is stationed in New York City, helping remove demand from the Cities Hospitals. David works on the well-known Treadle Style Sewing Machines, repairing them and “electrifying” them, an upgrade from their original foot-powered state for collectors and enthusiasts across America.

David is known as the only remaining traveling sewing machine repairman in America. He was modest to accept the title but did agree. He hasn’t done much traveling these days, and the demand has kept him in his workshop anyway, surrounded by machines; he’s working diligently to return them to their owners and help meet America’s mask demand.

He also spoke with us about the challenges the sudden demand for masks placed on his industry “The Coronavirus has escalated demand tenfold.” The stores are sold out of new machines, and he’s been working nearly around the clock to help companies and individuals repair their machines and convert their manufacturing to mask making. “I work with companies with around 20 people or so.” These companies are transforming their normal production from things like high-end dresses and custom clothing to masks. He also spoke about individuals far and wide that are pulling their sewing machines out of the attic and noticing that they don’t work anymore.  David’s seen “Everything from the needles in backward to broken motors, or just people that forgot how to thread the machine.”

David doesn’t do any online marketing, his business doesn’t have a website, and he doesn’t even have an email address. He’s built and grown his business from the contacts and friendships he’s made over a very long and successful career. Learning from each encounter and conducting business in person or on the phone. His style may be old school, but his work speaks for itself, and that’s why people bring their sewing machines to David.