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Our Button Maker

Dennis Hoffman, the Button King


After surviving the Depression, our father Murray, a men's suit salesman, wanted to get into a new business venture and decided to join forces with another Murray to create a button making business called Duplex Novelty. The name was determined having wheedled a very cheap lease from a landlord because the space was broken up oddly between two floors. There was a lot of shouting up stairs and down. It was 1939 and still a struggle for new enterprises looking to compete in the frantic garment center. But the war came along and smart operators who could find material could get government contracts and do well. 

By the time my brother and I were born in '47 and '49 my father had bought out his partner and moved our growing family to the suburbs to a dream house, like millions of others. His brothers Hy and Nat had come back from service in Europe and he put them to work.   His newly married sister, my Aunt Sylvia rolled up her stockings, wore sensible shoes and was the bookkeeper.

My brother and I were put to work in the summer time by the mid-50s, coming in on the LIRR and running errands and deliveries in the incredibly crowded garment center. 

It was around this time that my father made the decision to become a specialty "novelty" button producer, making strictly wooden buttons.  He met an older Czeck jewish emigre who lost his entire family in the holocaust and who was representing a large turning mill from New Hampshire. Murray had a great source for wood in the Allen Rogers Corp. and despite their rabid anti-semitism, they liked the color of his money and he was able to purchase precise, high quality raw wood turnings.

By the 1970s my brother and I joined the firm and millions of buttons were being turned out every month. Dennis returned safe from Vietnam and I graduated Emerson College with a degree in filmmaking that led to a career in what else?.... buttons.

1978- our Uncles wanted to retire and Dad wanted to step away so we took over. Into the 80's and 90s we had our ups and downs with the union local, bad costume jewelry accounts and growing foreign competition. In 1997 we swallowed up our competition, Shumsky Bros when the bottom dropped out of domestic apparel production faster then you can say "Made in China".

As a smaller firm, we pride ourselves on the ability to adopt an eco-friendly approach by overseeing production closely and adhering to the rules established by associations like the Forest Stewardship Council, the One World Project and moving quickly to comply with standards set forth by the CPSC. These organizations have standards to support responsible forest management worldwide.