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  • Writer's pictureKaren Seiger

Toast as Design Inspiration Part 2: Toaster Central

If you have been to the Greenflea in the past several years, you may have seen a dapper gentleman in a top hat, surrounded by some of the very best of examples of American industrial design in history.  Michael Sheafe, proprietor of Toaster Central, sells toasters and other kitchen appliances manufactured from 1920’s to the 1950’s.  He guarantees them all, but very few of them ever come back to him because these machines were built to last.

Scheafe has done extensive research on the appliances he restores and sells, the companies that manufactured them, and the brilliant design that went into creating them.  They are made from high quality, durable materials, including brass, copper, steel and chrome.  He prefers to deal in appliances made by Sunbeam and Toastmaster because the craftsmanship is superb, although he works with several other excellent brands as well.  Carnegie Steel Mill would send a daily trainload of steel to Sunbeam in Chicago.  Toastmaster was the largest consumer of chamois cloth to make sure all of their toasters shined like the top of the Chrysler Building, to quote a phrase.

Sheafe sells many gorgeous toasters, waffle irons, corn poppers, egg cookers and more.  My personal favorite is the Toast-O-Lator, or “Walking Toaster,” because it more of a catwalk for toast than a mere toaster.  You place your slice in one side, and you can watch through the peephole as it struts past the heating element.  It exits the other side perfectly hot, fragrant, golden brown – and irresistible.  It was produced in the New York area between 1937 and 1950, and it was beautifully billed to be “New as Tomorrow.”  There is even a Facebook fan page for this toaster.  It’s that great.

Sheafe once had a customer whose family lost their beloved childhood toaster in a divorce.  To make matters worse, it was their stepmother who took it away with her.  Sheafe was able to find four of the same model toaster in perfect condition so that all four siblings could have one of their own.

In addition to setting up his tables outside at the Greenflea when weather permits, as well as the London Terrace Street Fair (which will be September 21 this year, but I’ll remind you), his beautifully descriptive website is full of vintage kitchen treasures.  Sheafe uses white and cinnamon toast to demonstrate his wares, but his personal bread of choice is a fresh loaf from Agata & Valentina’s at 1st and 79th.

So go online or meet Michael Sheafe in person at the Greenflea in good weather.  Let me know which shiny toaster is your favorite!



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