FLINT TWP. — Two six-foot-tall stuffed teddy bears awaiting head-totoe zippers that will turn them into Halloween costumes are an example of the kinds of special sewing and alterations projects entrusted to Karen Blackwell-Vickers.
From hemming prom dresses to turning mink coats into teddy bears, Blackwell-Vickers, owner of Tailoring by Blackwell, has done it all during her twenty-five years in business.
She is celebrating her 25th anniversary this month while looking back on her memories and looking ahead to maybe another decade in business.
“I really didn’t think I would make it for 25 years,’’ she said. “I kept saying if I can just make it for 25 years then I will be done. But now that 25 is here, I am not ready to give it up.” Business is steady and strong.
“Why quit when things are going pretty good?” she asked. “it is not like I am sitting here waiting on business.”
Proms, wedding and homecoming keep her busy year-round but she’s in demand for other custom services such as making family reunion shirts. Custom fitting is her specialty.
Vickers learned her trade from her dad who operated a tailoring service in their home from 1965 to 1985. He did a lot of work for the old downtown Flint business such as Hughes & Hatcher and Milt Weiss.
She opened her own business in 1991 and has moved around to about six retail locations. For the past five years, Tailoring by Blackwell has been located at 3308 Miller Road in the Yorkshire Plaza.
Customers come from near and far, including a few who have been with her for all 25 years, she said.
One experience that was “near and dear” to her heart is a customer who came from Owosso. Her mother was near death and she brought in beautiful fabric she wanted made into a duplicate of her mother’s wedding dress for her to be buried in. The mom died four days later but her dress was ready in time.
“For her to come to me and want me to do that I thought was such an honor and a blessing,” Blackwell-Vickers said. Providing exceptional customer service is her key to success and longevity, she said.
“My motto is the customer is always right,’’ she said. “They can be wrong as two left shoes but we are going to make them right.”
If she doesn’t have a garment ready on time she will offer a discount without being asked or will deliver a garment to a customer’s home or job or let them pick up at her own home.
Instead of throwing a party for her 25th anniversary celebration, she is hosting The Empowerment Business Expo, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on October 22 at Church of the Harvest, 2202 W. Dartmouth Avenue in Flint.
The free event aims to give exposure and encouragement to new business owners. Blackwell-Vickers will be offering on-site alterations. Featured speakers will include Micah L. Parker, of Uncommon Achievers Associates who will talk about how to “Turn Your Gifts & Talents into Profit”; Demona Willingham-Davis, a foster care and recruitment specialist for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Kim Stribling, a DHHS team and recruitment specialists. Many vendors will also be present. For event information, call 810-394-3838.