When Now Huynh opened her tailor shop in Excelsior, she had hoped for the American Dream. The dream became a reality, and she’s thankful everyday for the opportunity.
Huynh owns Paris Tailors and the Soap Box, 350 Second St., in Excelsior and has been running the store for 25 years this May. A Vietnamese refuge, she came to the U.S. and was given the opportunity to do what she loves – sewing.
Describing herself as picky when it comes to working on clothes, she says it should be done right the first time. If she sees other issues with clothing she’ll fix them, without charge, even though she knows the costumer won’t know.
A beginning with uncertainty
When she first opened the store, she says even 12-hour days brought no costumers. The first two weeks in business she booked $50.
“Every time I saw the big truck turn the corner, I prayed it would hit my building,” Huynh laughed.
Also accepting dry cleaning when first opened, Huynh was just trying to make ends meet. She says even though there are a lot of tailor shops out there, to find one that cares about the clothing is a challenge.
“I know my costumers will be back and that’s why I really care,” Huynh said.
Her love for sewing and the perfection that came along with it began at a young age.
“At fifth-grade I was making all my clothes,” Huynh said.
Back in Vietnam, she was a high school teacher, and even though she loved to sew she says tailor work makes very little money.
“A good job requires a good education,” she said.
Learning from friends and parents of students, her sewing skills quickly took off.
The road to Excelsior
Huynh and her husband met at Saigon University in the ‘60s. He was drafted into the army in 1968 and then reported missing in action in 1972. He spent a year as a prisoner of war in Hanoi.
When they were reunited after his release, Huynh had the opportunity to leave Vietnam with his family. However, she says because they were not yet married she decided to stay. The two married in 1977, though the South Vietnamese government continued to spiral downwards and their situation became dire.
Huynh was five-months pregnant and her husband was traveling 100 kilometers one-way just to see her.
“We had no future there and were really poor,” she said. “Not enough money to even to buy rice.”
They decided to escape, even though they had a 50 percent chance of perishing at sea. Huynh says the possibility of a slow bomb on the ship, which explodes after it began the voyage, was real, but they didn’t care.
Upon arriving in Excelsior, they were able to rent the space because the owner of the old hardware store was the sponsor of her husband’s family. For Huynh it was the perfect opportunity to do what she loves.
“We wanted to open the shop because I really wanted to sew, I enjoy sewing,” Huynh said.
Huynh, now 65, says she still loves sewing just as much as when she first opened the shop. She says if the costumer is happy, she’s happy. She jokes if she were to have to move to Iceland she’d still bring her sewing machine.
Spring is her busy time with prom and wedding dress alterations.
And it’s her love for her costumers that she says will always keep her in business. Never planning to retire, she does however say she wants to pass the shop to her daughter, who will hopefully pass it to her kids.
“I’m happy to live in this country,” Huynh said. “I hope for three generations in this business.”
There are also fine soaps, fragrances and cosmetic products in the Soap Box portion of the business.
She says she’d want to be nowhere else but Excelsior, saying it’s warmth has made her appreciate everyday there. Thanking her costumers from the bottom of her heart, and her family’s heart, she says it wouldn’t be possible without their loyalty.
“I really like this town,” Huynh said. “Small town and very friendly people.”
Huynh says to better learn English she is taking classes through Minnetonka Community Education.
Contact Chris Dillmann at [email protected]