Slater & Sons: 50 golden years and still going

SANDUSKY The milestone almost slipped by Kristin Slater, but she was able catch it before it was too late. Rummaging t
May 24, 2010



The milestone almost slipped by Kristin Slater, but she was able catch it before it was too late.

Rummaging through old files and paperwork, she realized this year marks the 50th year since the family's auto upholstery business was born.

"People still ask for Ned," Kristin Slater said.

Kristin's husband, Brenton "Duke" Slater, is the owner of Slater & Son, 3951 Venice Road. He is the second generation to own and operate the auto upholstery business. A few year ago, the community knew the business as Ned's Auto Upholstery.

Ned's first opened its doors to the public in 1957 on Perkins Avenue. The shop was owned by Ned Tracht, who hired Duke Slater's father, Dean, two years after it made its debut to the community.

Dean Slater had just graduated from high school and was looking for a job.

In 1962, Dean Slater acquired the business and moved it to a new location on Milan Road.

Five years later, the shop made another moved to 605 Porter St., where it remained for more than 30 years.

"The rest is history," the older Slater said.

Dean Slater remembers one of his first repair jobs at Ned's Auto Upholstery. He had to repair and reinstall a convertible top on a 1958 Buick. The older Slater said the job took him two days to complete.

He was still learning.

Six months later, the area was hit with a hail storm that damaged almost every convertible top in town, he said. Swimming knee deep in convertible tops, Dean said he quickly became a pro at replacing them. Today, it takes him about seven hours to complete the job -- from start to finish.

In 1998, Dean Slater had a new building constructed for his business. Four years after the building was built, his son Duke took over. In 2003, the business changed from Ned's Auto Upholstery to Slater & Son Auto Trim and Marine Upholstery and Custom Design and Remodeling.

Duke Slater, 44, worked as a kitchen and bathroom remodeler since 1992. He saw potential in his father's business, but didn't want to give up on what he considered his passion. In the end, the younger Slater combined the two businesses together.

Customers are greeted with an array of floor and carpet samples, cabinetry displays and light fixtures as they walk through the front door of Slater & Son. Kristin Slater, the shop's bookkeeper, is there to greet guests.

The back of the building houses two shops -- a small one for the remodeling business and a larger one for the auto upholstery business.

Rolls of fabric -- vinyl, leather and cloth -- make up a section of the shop designated as the sewing area. Reds, creams, blues and grays are just a few of the colors the shop keeps stocked. Certain colors and fabrics can be ordered for the customer if they are unavailable at the shop.

Duke Slater grew up sweeping his father's shop floors. Although Duke has learned a lot from his father over the years, he admits he's not quite as skilled.

"You're learning something new every day," he said. "Dad's still learning every day."

The older Slater, now 65, still helps out at the shop.

"He helps out because I haven't found anyone to replace him," said Kristin Slater, who is the bookkeeper.

"He's 65 and wants to retire ... but I think he still enjoys it," she added with a laugh.

Each family member plays a part when it comes to the family business. Dean Slater's wife, Karen, occasionally helps with filing and customer service.