Featured Tenant: Lula’s Alterations

After working in the alterations business under the direction of someone else for 45 years, Lula Toban decided to open her own business.

Lula’s Alterations opened its doors Sept. 8, 2008 at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks on Columbus Road in Athens.

Toban learned at an early age how to sew.

Featured Tenant: Lula’s Alterations

Lula Toban has been helping people look better in their clothes for 45 years, doing alterations for several different clothing shops in Athens.

“I was a big child, so my mother had to make all my clothes for me,” said Toban. “When I got older, I wanted more complicated things done and my mother told me to learn to do it myself. So I started sewing when I was 10 or 12.”

Toban recalls being in home economics class and wearing clothes she made while teachers were teaching other students to sew a straight seam.

“I didn’t have anything else to do but watch, so I learned how to take apart and oil the machines,” she said.

Toban has worked in uptown Athens on Court Street since 1964.

“I started at Robert’s Men’s Shop and then went on to work at Michael Kim’s for seven years,” said Toban. “Then I spent the past 15 years working at Baron’s, which closed down in March.”

When Baron’s decided to shut its doors, it left Toban without a job.

Regular customers had nowhere to take their ill-fitting garments, so Toban decided to start her own alterations operation, which is located at 94 Columbus Road.

Toban says there are many differences in working out of ACEnet, a business incubator.

“The biggest difference is parking,” she said. “You can’t just park in downtown Athens.”

Toban is also happy to have the absence of stairs and the addition of a window view.

“I will also be ordering my own supplies, paying the rent and other managerial tasks,” said Toban. “I’m used to dealing with the customers.”

Toban does alterations only.

“Materials and my time are too expensive to make clothing,” she said. “It’s hard to make money that way.”

With changing fashions and Featured Tenant: Lula’s Alterationsoutsourcing of the clothing industry, Toban said alterations are getting harder to do.

“Dresses aren’t made to alter anymore,” she said. “All dresses used to have seams down the sides. Now they are covered by decorative stitching, which must be removed before altering.”

Although the garments are harder to work with, the amount of pieces needing altered remains steady.

“It seems like clothes made in other countries are not made to fit American women,” she said. “Often women bring in their wedding dresses that fit everywhere, except the bust is too big.”

Wedding dresses are Toban’s specialty and most-requested alteration.

Toban said some people purchase clothes on sale even if they are the wrong size.

“For example, one lady just brought in this dress that she fell in love with and it needed to be taken in three sizes. She bought it because it was on sale.

“I guess they figure if they save the money on the clothing, they can pay me to alter it,” said Toban.

Although Toban is in her early 60s, she has no plans of retirement.

“I figured I’d keep busy while my mind and my hands still work,” she said. “I like a challenge.”

In her spare time, Toban takes a break from sewing and enjoys painting and gardening.

Toban said her least-favorite alteration is lowering collars on coats and prefers simple jobs like hemming jeans.

Lula’s Alterations is open on Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

For more information, call Lula at 740-508-9027.

Featured Tenant: Lula’s Alterations

Lula being interviewed by Sway the Crowd Productions