Michael Emery Tueskoes: Creative Engineering & Mfg. Corp. was founded in 1976. The original company, T & W Engineering, with the same purpose of serving the window coverings trade, was founded in Miami, FL, in 1965 when I was a college student. This company was based on the Lectro Tabler, the first machine I designed.
My wife, Irmi, and I escaped Hungary on February 5, 1957, by cutting the barbed wire fence at the border between Hungary and Yugoslavia. I had been indicted in Hungary because of activities during and after the Hungarian uprising in 1956. After spending 10 months in refugee camps in Yugoslavia we arrived in the United States in New York on December 7, 1957, as Hungarian refugees with two six-month-old babies. On the following evening, the refugee agency put us on a train and two days later, at 7:30 in the morning, we arrived in Miami where Irmi's aunt was waiting for us. She took us home and gave me a clean shirt and a pair of work pants and took me to a construction site run by her husband. I was an electrical contractor in Hungary, but since neither of us spoke English, I worked as a construction helper during the day and Irmi and I attended school to learn English at night.
In two months, I picked up enough English to move up to a factory job manufacturing aluminum windows. We kept studying English and as our knowledge increased we learned reupholstering and started to do reupholstering work in our home in the evenings. One year later, in July 1959, we had a third baby. Late in the same year, we opened a used furniture and upholstery business.
More and more of our upholstery customers asked us to do drapery work. We enrolled in a Johns Hopkins Vocation School evening course and learned drapery making and broadened our business by offering window covering work in addition to upholstery.
Our window coverings operation became more profitable than the furniture business so we switched fully to that. Working with various fabrics we found it difficult to provide an even hem line on a horizontal table, especially with casements. As I was doing installations, I noticed the unevenness of the hems as the draperies were hanging vertically. This gave me the idea that vertical sizing would be more accurate. I designed and built a device for this purpose, which turned out to be very useful in producing even hem lines.
When people in the trade came to our business and noticed the unique machine, they suggested making additional machines and selling them to others. But we did not see the commercial value of the machine and didn't make any others.
In the meantime, Irmi and I had completed our courses in English and I enrolled in evening high school. Two years later, in January 1962, I earned a high school equivalency diploma and enrolled part-time in the Dade County Junior College. By 1963, our window coverings business had been profitable enough to enable me to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville full-time to study engineering.
In 1965, the Hungarian government granted amnesty to all who left Hungary by the end of 1959, and thus we could go back to visit our parents and relatives. We were very anxious to go except we did not have the money. I was a full-time college student and Irmi earned just enough to support the family. I remembered how many times visitors suggested making and selling the Vertical Length Sizing Machine. To raise money to visit Hungary, we invited a few drapery workroom owners to our business and offered them an improved version of the vertical machine. One of them ordered one and from the profit on the sale we flew to Hungary.
On our return, the customer offered me a partnership and to pay for the patenting of the machine. I accepted the offer and the first labor-saving machine company was launched. I continued my college education while my partner sold the machines. I supplied drawings for the machines and checked out each one before shipment.
By the end of 1967, when I graduated as a mechanical engineer, the big question was whether to take a job or continue manufacturing the machine. General Electric offered me an advance engineering job I could not refuse. We moved to Louisville, KY, and manufacturing the drapery machine was put on the back burner for a while.
By 1969, I had learned the drawbacks of working for a large company. In May, I resigned and formed the Tueskoes Engineering Co. to devote full time to manufacturing the machine and developing additional labor saving machines for the window coverings industry. Since that time, I have devoted my full effort to providing equipment to modernize the industry, and even while I was working in other areas I kept designing and modernizing my earlier machines.
In 1972, I sold part of the now thriving business to Wade Morgan. Irmi and I moved to Europe to establish a business in Austria. In 1975, I joined the United Nation's technical experts and spent a year in Turkey while Irmi ran the factory. In 1976, after completing the assignment with the United Nations, we returned to the United States and established Creative Engineering & Mfg. Corp. and developed and patented several machines.
In 1996, an old Kentucky state law required us to remove the word engineering from our company name because we did not provide engineering services directly to the public. So we renamed the company Creative Tueskoes Corp.
D&WC: What best describes your niche in the marketplace?
Tueskoes: We provide a broad service supplying more machines with the most advanced features and technology than any other company. We offered a voice-controlled cutting machine more than 10 years ago.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Tueskoes: First, strong support by my wife, Irmi. Also, the constant development of new products and the improvement of older ones.
D&WC: What are your strengths in the marketplace?
Tueskoes: Offering a broad range of labor-saving equipment with advanced features. Exhibiting at overseas trade shows also has helped us tremendously. Our products now are used in five continents of the world.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Tueskoes: Hard window coverings and fancy work became dominant over draperies over the years. Hardware has improved and electric and electronic controls have become popular.
D&WC: What trends and cycles do you see occurring in the industry? How is your business addressing them?
Tueskoes: We have found that fabric quality is decreasing, workroom sewers are hard to find-even unskilled ones-and customers' tastes are more refined.
We have addressed these trends by developing fabric inspection-measuring-cutting machines, bar-coded length measuring inventory controls at the measuring/cutting machines and laser scanners to provide speedy and accurate data input and inventory control in the stock room.
We see our labor-saving machines as improving the productivity of available operators and simplifying technology to enable less skilled operators to produce quality work.
D&WC: Is your business computerized?
Tueskoes: Yes, we are fully computerized and networked.
D&WC: Who are your customers?
Tueskoes: Window coverings and garment manufacturers, fabric converters and wholesalers/retailers.
D&WC: How many salespeople do you employ?
Tueskoes: Four inside and two outside representatives.
D&WC: Do you educate your customers?
Tueskoes: Yes, we have trained operators and managers in our workroom as well as in our customers' workroom. We've also held many seminars on workroom technique and equipment selection. In doing this, we've been asked to consult with workrooms in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. This past February, we were invited to Curacao to train operators there.
D&WC: Do you work through distributors or sell direct to the retailer?
Tueskoes: We sell mostly direct in order to keep cost down and maintain constant contact with our customers and learn about their needs.
D&WC: What advice would you give to other window coverings professionals?
Tueskoes: Constantly look to maintain and improve productivity by updating the technology of your operation. Introduce labor-saving machines to remain competitive and profitable.
Creative Tueskoes Corp.
3510 Mattingly Rd.
Buckner, KY 40014
Fax: (502) 225-0015
Web site: www.emerytus.com