The Story of Twin-Kee

By Elaine Felos Ostrander

The ART of manufacturing to the manufacturing of ART. This is the tale of a father's ambitious dreams and accomplishments fulfilling a different kind of dream for his daughter.

It was April 1946, when my father Anthony P. Felos succeeded in opening his own business. While working as a supervisor in various raincoat factories, including the former Panther Rubber Company in Stoughton, he decided to open his own company that would make rainwear out of cloth and rubber fabrics. He purchased farmland and horse barns located at 720 Park Street in Stoughton. Eventually the property was transformed his into Twin-Kee Manufacturing Company.

I remember those early days with the horses, chickens, and turkeys. The old barns and stalls became the setting for cutting tables, sewing machines, and hot steam pressers. Soon all evidence of the earlier farmland had disappeared. Things grew rapidly as a family business. Dad was in partnership with his brother, Ralph Janaro, who was my uncle and godfather. Dad's sister, my Aunt Rose was my mentor. She became the forewoman of the operation. She taught me to sew and to use my creativeness. The artist in me came out very early. I remember using the chalks, which were used to mark the raincoat patterns. They became my drawing tools. On anything and everything, I would draw, including the walls.

Many other family members worked in the factory, including my mother, Helen, and a number of Dad's and Mom's siblings and in-law. There were always aunts and uncles in the factory to greet and get candy from. As I grew, I was allowed to do small tasks here and there. I loved working with my Dad's bookkeeper, secretary, and girl Friday, Katherine. Today I despise those kinds of tasks.

 

From the 50's through the 80's, the business flourished. It serviced the needs of priests, nuns, undertakers, law enforcement personnel, etc. Eventually the company grew to more than fifty employees, all of who were my friends and relatives. Dad sold wholesale to other stores at first, but soon opened a small retail outlet store in the front of the factory. It was one of the very first outlet stores in existence. People came from all over the country to shop at this innovative place where clothing was made on the premises and sold at a discount at the same location. Today people still show up at the gallery looking for raincoats.         

           

For me, the future was clear. Art had to be a part of my life and my work. I graduated from Emmanuel College in Boston with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a minor in Fine Arts. I did my thesis in fashion design, often helping to design the patterns for the manufactured raincoats. While attending Boston University's graduate school of Advertising and Design, I learned a lot about the fast-paced world of the commercial artist. As the on-site manufacturing at Twin-Kees began to decrease, I would accompany my dad to the fashion shows and help him to select the styles to show in our retail store each season. In the mid l980's I introduced a line of wearable art to the business under the name of Tabitha's, which was custom painted clothing for individuals and groups. I remember how Dad and I loved to do fashion shows for local charitable causes. We dragged racks of raincoats and painted clothing into large restaurants and then let the audience be the models, showing that anyone could wear our line of clothing. It was at about this time that my nephew Anthony, Dad's grandson, who was interested in a career in music, set up a small recording studio in the basement of the factory. Neither he nor I thought that our little businesses would evolve into what they are today.

 

In the mid-1970's, my establishment of and involvement with the Stoughton Art Association added a whole new dimension and venue for the artists in this area. Remembering how we would ask Dad if we could have a little space in the factory for meetings, projects, and workshops. Many of our meetings were held amid the coats, racks, sewing machines, and pressing equipment. You could still smell the hot steam from the pressers mingling with the paint odors. Sometimes we had to push rows of coats out of the way just to accommodate our easels and stools. My parents always generously supported the art association. They were there for us whenever some little item was needed. As time passed, the association members often talked about having an Art Center of their own someday, thinking how awesome if would be to have a real gallery and studios right here.

 

By the late 1980's, it was apparent that manufacturing in the United States was not like it used to be. The foreign market was driving many businesses out. Dad and I would often talk about what we could do the keep our businesses going. He would say, "If someone could just come up with an idea for this business property." One by one, the sewing machines were sold, then the pressing equipment, and then the cutting tables. As the older members of the family started to retire, the business of manufacturing raincoats slowed. Dad and Aunt Rose were still making a few coats. However, it was a small amount in comparison to the past.

In the meantime, my nephew's the small recording studio suddenly started to grow, and along with it the need for space. I always knew there was a need for artists' space, so I finally told Dad of my idea to make studios for artists at Twin-Kees. A place where they could paint and produce a different kind of products. Dad was, of course, a bit skeptical. It was a bit radical for him at his age to think about a new plan. Dad was in failing health. Every time the subject was brought up, he would just say, "We'll see." In October of 1994, after I returned home from a painting trip/vacation in Jamaica, Dad told me he was ready to let me do something with the business. He was finally ready to relinquish his position and let me try my idea, the dream I had envisioned all my life.

In November of 1994, Dad's health took a turn for the worse and he passed away in January of 1995. His memory would live on with my vision for the future of Twin-kee.

With much time and effort, dust, sweat, and sore muscles, my family , many friends and I cleaned out the 50-year-old factory that once housed my favorite horses and made it into what it is today.

 

At first, the retail store still occupied the front of the building. I still carried a fine line of outerwear for men and women, along with an increasing line of fine handcrafted items.

The recording studio occupied a very large section of the building and continued to grow daily, brining in bands and singing groups from all over the world. In 1998, Prophet Sound Recording Studios outgrew its surroundings and ventured into the big city, moving their facilities and crew into Boston. Thus ended their part in the family business. Their move made more room for artists in the building.

 

In June of 1997, I closed the doors of the Twin-Kee Rainwear business forever to make room for the Felos Art Center and FMAC Gallery. As one dream reached fruition, another was just beginning.

Today we have more than twenty studios and about thirty artists in the building. I still have musicians in the building and family members working with me. My son Ted is part of a band that rehearses in the old recording room. Another band also shares the space. Ted and Jeff Hansen of Sonix Soundz Production Services occupy a large area of the basement where Prophet Sound used to be located. My sister, Jan is very active with the Stoughton Little Theater. You can often see set designs being painted in the building or groups of actors and actresses rehearsing lines in a corner or a closet. My grandchildren take classes and are often models for my paintings. My daughter, Tabitha, caters our workshops and luncheons and often serves as hostess for gallery openings. Matt, my son is occasionally called upon to do interior and exterior tasks. My daughters, Rachel and Heidi proclaim my talent to all who will listen. JC and Cheyenne, my two dogs, faithfully accompany me to the art center. When not lounging in the studio or gallery, they are always willing to model for the children's classes.

This old and unique industrial building still maintains its industrial standing in the town in a very unique way. We can have forty to fifty people in the building on any given day, but I don't employ anyone. Everyone works independently in his/her own space. Some are weaving, some painting, some teaching, some building fine furniture, and some are making jewelry. Other people are learning in one of our many classes. Everything is made on the premises in its own little space. On occasion, it finds its way to the gallery. The spirit and camaraderie is immense, the cooperation overwhelming, and the satisfaction magnificent. T

The Art Center covers all aspects of the art world. Now we are expanding our work and vision to the Internet. I always knew that my idea would work and I know Dad would have been proud to have been a part of this effort, ecstatic, to see how his business continued to grow, and joyful to see how happy everyone is here. I still remember where every sewing machine was, and who sewed at it. Ironically, my studio is located in the exact spot that Aunt Rose, my mentor, sewed and coordinated the production of all the pieces that went into making a quality product. Today, I sit in that spot and coordinate the events of the Felos Art Center. I hope this is just the beginning. The new industry has been an asset to the neighborhood and community. I look forward to its growth and continued success for many years to come.

 

I would like to thank personally from the bottom of my heart the following people for their many unselfish hours of volunteer help that got the Felos Memorial Art Center

Ed Hoffman

Jack Corbett

Odette and George Green

Paulette and Dick Fedorowich

Laurie and Mike Grigalunas

Atty. Robert Delaney

Chester Gasuna

Tom Hevener

Anthony P. Felos Jr.

Anthony P. Felos III

Dave Spivey and the staff of Prophet Sound Recording studio

My sons in-law, Harry Tremblay and Bob Mayo

My children: Heidi, Tabitha, Ted, Rachel and Matt

My Dear Friend Anne Velson, who got me started and kept me going.

But most especially my husband, Ed and my mother Helen Felos. None of this could have been done without them.

I would also wish to thank the many townspeople and town officials who have supported me to this point. It is my hope that this will become one of the best art centers in the area. We certainly have a great beginning and a wonderful group of artist. I can not thank them enough for their confidence and support of my endeavor.

~Elaine Felos Ostrander

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