THUNDER BAY -- Shelly Hutchinson and Sherry Hannah were colleagues in a sewing shop when they started thinking about striking out on their own.
With the older and more frugal generation needing an accessible sewing shop to repair their clothes and the younger generation not learning how to sew on a button in school, they figured Port Arthur could use their services. Having found the perfect spot on Bay Street, the two left their jobs and started their own business.
The Sewing Shop opened on April 10, 2012, and it has stayed busy since then. They do everything from hemming pants, letting out seams and replacing zippers to custom orders.
“We do sew clothes from scratch, but it becomes quite costly - buying fabric isn’t cheap, and when you factor in the cost of getting it made, it’s usually not worth it,” Hutchinson explains. “We do everything that can go under a sewing machine, from tents to boat covers - but we try to stay away from wedding dresses. With wedding dresses you have to keep your shop so clean, and there are other people in town who specialize in dresses.” Hannah gestures around the small shop with piles of fabric, racks overflowing with hangers and bins of colourful threads and supplies. “And dresses take up so much room and we don’t have much room.”
The two don’t hesitate to refer a client to another specialist if they feel someone else is better suited for the job. If that doesn’t work out, they won’t leave a client stranded, but they don’t want to take on any and every job, because promptness is their policy. “Most of the time if people bring something in on Monday, we can do it by Friday. We also do pant hems in an hour. And it doesn’t cost extra.”
“We get requests for medical things,” Hannah muses. “Someone who’s diabetic needs their socks cut and resewn, for example.”
“I made a ‘lift’ for a gentleman whose mother is 102,” Hutchinson says. “He uses it to move her from her wheelchair into his car. It’s like a square with handles. And we’ve made a colostomy bag once.” Medical supplies can cost an arm and a leg, and this is one case where having one made can save money.
Their current building is up for sale, so they are not sure if they will be able to stay if and when it is sold. Even if they have to find new lodgings, they are determined to stay in the same neighbourhood, because that’s where their customers are.
They have 11 machines in the shop that they use on a daily basis, including a Singer from the 1950s. “That machine is great. It goes heavy, it goes light, it sews really nice,” Hannah purrs. “And this one is called a light industrial walking foot,” Hutchinson points to another. “This is our favorite!” Hannah glows. “I’ve done quarter-inch thick leather on that, it’s nice and smooth.” Hutchinson adds.
Looking around the shop and describing their equipment, it is clear they thoroughly love their profession and their equipment. They’ve been doing it for decades (Hutchinson started using a sewing machine when she was four and Hannah says she was eight when she put a needle through her finger for the first time) and it truly seems there is nothing these two consummate professionals cannot do.