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Good Fits

Some businesses still make gloves in Gloversville

August 9, 2009
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - It's fitting that gloves are made in Gloversville. Yet, just a couple of glovemaking companies still exist in the city that got its name from the industry.

Among them are Samco, LLC, and the shop of Daniel Storto. They both assemble gloves in the city, filling niches. Storto hand-stitches gloves he's created for numerous celebrities, while Samco makes gloves that end up being used by members of the U.S. military.

Richard Warner, the superintendent at Samco, said the business bids on contracts to supply military depots. He said the company cannot realistically compete in the commercial market with glove companies that have their products assembled in foreign countries, such as China.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Gerry Willis, an employee at Samco in Gloversville, sews gloves at the shop Tuesday.

"[Gloves] cost too much to make," he said.

At the South Main Street business, next to Chef Lomanto's Market, approximately 30 employees make gloves.

After the leather and lining materials get to the business, the procedures involved in making a pair of gloves - such as cutting the material and sewing the pieces together - are done at the location.

Warner said it takes a long time for someone to learn how to do their job. Sewers, for instance, have what is considered a skilled occupation. That raises the cost of labor.

Then there are the other costs of business, such as disability insurance and paying various state taxes and fees, he said.

Add it all up, and the numbers do not favor trying to compete in the commercial market.

Ila Greco said her husband, Salvatore, known as Sam, started the business in 1992 after spending years as a machinist for various leather companies.

Samco now ships about 2,400 pairs of gloves every week. They have shipped up to 6,000 pairs in a week.

Ila said the quality of every glove is important. That is why there are numerous quality checks for every glove while it's being made.

For Daniel Storto, quality is also important.

Part of his clientele is famous.

Cher, Madonna, Celine Dion, Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton are among the celebrities Storto has designed and hand-sewn gloves for. He's worked with numerous fashion designers, and his gloves have been featured in magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair.

However, Storto also makes wool jersey gloves - what he calls "Ready Mades" - that sell for $10 a pair.

"I do this because visitors like to leave Gloversville with a product that was made by a glovemaker they met and is a wonderful alternative to a postcard," Storto said in an e-mail.

When he opened his North Main Street shop, the main reason actually was not for it to be a retail location. The purpose was to honor and celebrate the history of glovemaking in the city, he said.

"I am the only glovemaker left in North America [who] hand-stitches gloves, and I have the only storefront glovemakers shop in the world," he said.

Storto first visited Gloversville in 2001, and soon after ,moved here from Los Angeles. For a man who was known as the "Glovemaker to the Hollywood Stars," it might have seemed like an extreme change.

However, Storto said, everyone in the city is friendly and he is comfortable living here. Then there is the history of the city, particularly its connection to glovemaking. As Storto said, "... it is my Disneyland."

Storto plans to have the retail operation of his glove shop open again Aug. 15. From then until the end of December, he said, is when tourists tend to be around. From January into August, Storto works on new glove collections for fashion designers in New York City. He designs, drafts the patterns and produces all of the gloves from the shop.

A one-man operation, there is a waiting list for his custom-made gloves that keeps him busy year-round. He has no plans for expansion or moving the shop out of Gloversville.

"My glove shop is a gift for the people of Gloversville first," Storto said.

As the city Web site says, at one time nearly all American gloves were manufactured here.

In the time since the leather industry ruled the local workforce in the early to mid-20th century, many shops have closed due to foreign competition, stronger environmental regulations, and general downturns in the economy.

At times, it seems glovemaking in the city may become an occupation that will only be glimpsed in a museum.

Storto said he is renovating an old glove factory in the city at 40 Western Blvd. It will eventually be a Glove Museum, where people will be able to participate in the different steps of glovemaking, he said.

Warner said the plan for the business's future is simple:

"We are just trying to keep the [business] open," he said.



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