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College Pt. delicatessen owner turns to aprons

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“Every time I saw an antique apron, I bought it,” she said. “I accumulated about 60 aprons.”

Amato’s collection of antique aprons extends from those made from the 1920s to the 1960s. They vary in...

By Alexander Dworkowitz

Linda Amato has a not-so-secret obsession: aprons.

“Every time I saw an antique apron, I bought it,” she said. “I accumulated about 60 aprons.”

Amato’s collection of antique aprons extends from those made from the 1920s to the 1960s. They vary in colors, many of them in floral and checkered patterns and are far more decorative than standard aprons sold in most stores.

But Amato’s ambition soon spread beyond collecting and the delicatessen she runs in College Point. She confided in a childhood friend and garment center manufacturer, John Barsoli.

“I told him my dream was that once I retired from the delicatessen, I would redo the antique aprons.”

A year ago, Amato, 52, who runs Linda’s Kitchen at 129-21 14th Ave. in College Point, decided to make her dream a reality. The College Point resident teamed up with Barsoli to start American Hostess, a company which produces old-style aprons.

American Hostess has quickly taken off, having sold thousands of its product since January. The company’s aprons are featured in the July issue of Country Living magazine, and New York magazine recently featured one of the aprons as a “Best Bet.”

Amato and Barsoli work together to produce patterns based on the old aprons. Barsoli then takes the patterns to a manufacturer, and the aprons are sold to stores.

The aprons sell for about $30 each and can be found in museum stores, antique stores and gift shops throughout the country.

The general public soon will be able to make its own aprons based on Amato’s designs. McCalls Patterns has bought the rights to five of Amato’s patterns and will publish them in its January 2003 pattern book.

“No other company sells this kind of apron,” Amato said. “All they sell is the white barbecue-style aprons.”

Amato said that the uniqueness of the aprons has led to their success.

“It’s an unbelievable business,” she said. “The company is very hot because the phone does not stop ringing.”

Amato attributes the business’ popularity to the feeling of nostalgia that the aprons evoke in her customers.

“They all say the same thing, ‘Oh, my grandmother used to wear one; oh, my mother used to wear one; oh, it reminds me of baked cookies.’ ”

It is that same nostalgia that originally attracted Amato to the aprons.

“It reminds me of my grandmother,” said Amato, who was raised in Whitestone by her grandmother and father. “It brings back warm memories, it really does.”

Amato has continued to keep her deli open despite her dedication to American Hostess. She arrives at the deli at 5 a.m. weekdays, and usually does not head home to her husband until about 7 p.m.

Her mornings are spent making her renowned homemade food, from eggplant parmigiana to potato salad to her blueberry, apple, peach, banana, strawberry and corn muffins.

“My muffins are very popular,” she said.

In the afternoon, Amato often heads to the office in the back of the store to respond to phone messages involving her apron business.

“I’m part of the woodwork,” Amato joked.

American Hostess aprons can be purchased at Environment 337, located at 337 Smith Street in Brooklyn, or can be ordered by mail at 522-1767.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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