Stevenson’s legacy lives on through Industrial Sewing and Upholstery Academy

Published 5:49 pm Friday, February 4, 2022

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Is there an industrial sewing machine gathering dust in your attic?

There’s an immediate need for them at Diamond N-D Rough Upholstery in downtown Washington, where students are learning the tools of the trade in the Industrial Sewing and Upholstery Academy.

The program is a public-private partnership between Beaufort County Community College and Diamond N-D Rough.

The new program is dedicated to the legacy of Grover “Steve” Cleveland Stevenson, the late brother of Oliver Stevenson, who owns Diamond N-D Rough. Steve Stevenson died in November 2021. Oliver said Steve had an integral role in teaching the sewing trade to their family.

“We’re here today to pay tribute to a man who is absolutely, without a doubt, responsible for everything you’re hear today for,” Oliver Stevenson said during a dedication ceremony Friday.

“My wife told him, ‘Look, brother-in law, you’ve got to teach me how to upholster,’” Stevenson recalled. “So he remembered that, and I don’t know how God works, but a lady came into our shop and said, ‘Listen, I want you to upholster this chair.’ So she called (Steve) and said take the chair and bring it by my house. In 10 hours he taught us the trade.”

Oliver said Steve told him to pass on that knowledge to others.

“So that is what drives me and Betty,” Oliver said. “It is not our legacy that we’re building. What we’re doing here is we’re carrying on my brother’s legacy. There’s a burning fire inside of me to make sure that we take this and extend it to the community, and bring back a lot of this training that’s needed so much, not only in Washington but the surrounding area.”

The Industrial Sewing and Upholstery Academy is a 102-hour academy in which students learn the skills they need to find employment in industrial sewing, furniture repair and upholstery.

“Students will learn how to operate an industrial sewing machine, how to deconstruct and upholster furniture, where to find resources to start your own business, and local companies seeking employees with the skills learned from the academy,” BCCC’s description of the program reads.

The course typically costs $181.25, but it is currently free for students who qualify under the Beaufort Promise program.

“This is really a fantastic example of the kind of community that we have here in Washington and Beaufort County and eastern North Carolina,” BCCC President Dave Loope said. “It’s the kind of place where people start a business. They had the opportunity to start a business here downtown, in particular. And then they give back to the community, they grow that business, and they essentially teach people how to fish — in this case, they’re teaching them how to sew.

“We know that’s a skillset that is necessary for employment here in Beaufort County,” Loope added. “We know that Iconic Marine is already very interested, as well as Sesame Technologies. So there are connections here that have already been made.”