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Published: Monday, 4/6/2009

Thrifty consumers giving cobblers, tailors new work

DALLAS MORNING NEWS

DALLAS - Fewer people are leaving malls carrying shopping bags. Instead, they are heading to shops where tailors and cobblers are altering clothes or fixing shoes already in the closet.

Harry Papas, a tailor in Dallas, said more customers have come in to get suits refurbished and refitted rather than purchasing new ones. Women are bringing in skirts and dresses to be repaired.

"[It's] across the board - men's and women's apparel," Mr. Papas said. His business has increased 20 percent since October.

Brooke Wilson, who started assisting her boyfriend, Alex Livschitz, at a cobbler and alterations shop in Frisco, Texas, said some customers have brought in name-brand apparel purchased at outlets.

Peter Qian, another tailor in Dallas, said the large number of clearances at stores that are shutting down has helped boost his business. His customers tell him the deals, as much 80 percent off, are too good to pass up even if the clothes don't fit them.

Cobblers are experiencing an increase in business as shopping binges have been abandoned in favor of clampdowns on spending.

"I can't find another pair of boots like these," Joan Kennedy said as she waited to pick up her newly resoled shoes at Ms. Wilson and Mr. Livschitz's shop. "I'd rather not have to find a new pair."

Business at Kosta Dino's shoe repair shop in Oak Lawn, Texas, also has increased, with new customers dropping off luxury brands such as Prada and Gucci.

"They say they might as well get them fixed," Francis Lopez, who has been a shop employee for seven years, said. "In a busy day we get 50 people or more."

Business has increased as the number of cobblers continues to shrink across the nation.

Learning how to be a cobbler can take as long as four years, and most shops are family-owned businesses with few employees.

"This is a trade that's slowly dying. There's no interest," said George Nikolopoulos, a cobbler in Dallas, who added that he is lucky to have six employees at his shop.

"But they're [customers] trying to save a buck and search and find us."



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