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Never out of style

Born in Malaysia, Anna Chin came to Charlotte in 1990 and got a job at an alterations shop. She did fittings, managed the shop and eventually she and her husband, James, bought the business in 1991.

That’s when Anna’s Alterations was born in a small storefront on Pineville-Matthews Road. Business grew to include a Park Road location in 1999 and a University City shop on McCullough Drive in 2005. Chin, 55, is also part-owner of J. Major’s Bridal Boutique.

How has your business grown in the past 20 years?When I bought the business, Carolina Place Mall had just opened. That’s how we started getting contract work from JCPenney and different stores at the mall. Over time, chain stores like Banana Republic started approaching us to do their alterations too. We do a lot of contract work for retail stores – places like True Religion, 7 For All Mankind and Macy’s. Business grew through word-of-mouth. People send their neighbors. People were driving so far to come see me, so I opened the second and third locations in different areas of town in partnership with employees who have been working with me.

What services do you offer? We do basic alterations. Somebody will buy an outfit, and they know something is not quite right about it. But they can’t figure out what it is. It could be the length, could be too long-waisted, the shoulders not fitting right so it gaps in front. Just minor tweaking. We can tell them how it needs to be fixed and what needs to be tucked to make the difference. We are about making it better. We do a ton of wedding dresses and prom dresses.

What is the key to successfully altering a wedding dress?There’s no secret. You really just have to give people what they want. If they like their gown extra tight, you make it extra tight. They want their gown extra long, you make it extra long. Just listen to what people want and give it to them. And be honest. If you think that a certain way is too long, you tell them. If you don’t do the fitting well, the best seamstress in world will not do well. It has to come from the fitting first.

How has business been in the economic downturn?Not too much changes. Girls are always going to go to proms. Women will still get married. Even though they may not do the elaborate destination wedding, they still will buy a gown. And people still lose weight. They still need their clothes altered.

Anna’s Alterations has three locations, including the University City shop at 440 E. McCullough Drive; 704-547-9900.

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