Alessandro Terriaco learned tailoring in Campobasso (Molise), Italy beginning when he was eight years old. He came to America in 1961 and settled in Cleveland where he worked for Gary Allen, a manufacturer, and later for Dillard's Department store. He passed away in 2005, but not before teaching sons Dominic and Franco everything about tailoring. He started with the basics -- the skills learned without even touching a sewing machine -- beginning with how to sew using a thimble; fitting, altering and styling a custom-made suit and how to press a pair of pants.
During his Teamsters construction job, Dominic was tutored by his father and joined the clothing business in 1995. For 15 years he's been a tailor. His brother Franco began training following graduation from Painesville Harvey High School 24 years ago, working alongside mamma Nicolina -- who owns the shop -- and sister Maria (Kinford), who handles the bookkeeping and accounting.
The young men were anxious to learn tailoring because their father Alessandro said that tailors were "few and far in between." He told them, "These days to find a tailor, one needs to go to the cemetery because the trade is a dying art."
Terriaco's first clothing shop, in Painesville in 1982, was so tiny an ironing board had to be moved to get to the back room. Three miles or so from the original store, the family uses four times the space and sells pre-made and custom suits from the inexpensive to the best. Slacks, shirts, jackets, and shoes are also sold with alterations from top to bottom. Most of the cloth used in making the suits and jackets is British or Italian manufactured, but the completely hand made Oxford suits are 100 percent American. The store also carries Italian-made high-end Corneliani suits from Milan, Italian shirts and Bacco Bucci shoes. "However, our inventory is about 80 percent American," notes Dominic.
"The styles have absolutely changed radically," said Franco. "I remember the polyester suits, two pairs of pants, loops and high waist. Who would believe today worn pants and ripped jeans -- $150 jeans with holes in them?"
"Europeans spend more on their appearance," Franco added. "They dress impeccably, believing what people see on the outside, they can better know the person on the inside. Often, Americans prefer Dockers and a polo shirt."
There are suits custom made in America. In one instance, a company in Tennessee imported tailors from 17 countries to bring the European look to America.
Terriaco Suits & Tailoring prides itself in a mass appeal to customers from all walks of life -- including renowned sports celebrities, local television performers and a Washington senator. The store's appeal has been showcased in appearances in multiple fashion shows including one at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Terriaco's, at 8837 Mentor Avenue in Mentor, is open six days a week. It is closed on Sundays, but available for private shopping and out of the store sales and measurements and fittings on the customer's premises. For additional information, call 440-974-9119.