If you think running an alterations shop is all minute handiwork, you haven’t seen Juliana Chary in action. Twenty or 30 or 40 times a day, Chary is down on her hands and knees and then up again, measuring hemlines, pinning bustles and doing anything else needed to make sure someone’s clothes fit just right.
She gets so much exercise on the job that she says she doesn’t need to hit the gym. As her 50th birthday approached, she said, “I told my kids I’m going to run a 5K, and I did it.”
Chary and her husband, Satish, own Quick Stitch: Alterations by Juliana. Although best known for Juliana’s expertise in altering wedding gowns — she works on several thousand each year — Quick Stitch offers alterations on all kind of women’s and men’s clothing and also has a thriving embroidery business for large, institutional clients.
It’s a business the couple never envisioned being in when they immigrated to the United States from India in the 1990s, sponsored by in-laws living in Wichita. In their native country, Juliana had worked in human resources, while Satish was a salesman. Then in 1996, the owner of a dry cleaner offered them a small space on the mezzanine of his business on Rock Road in which to start an alterations shop.
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“When you come to a new country, I think necessity is the mother of invention,” Juliana said.
The dry cleaner is gone, but the Charys are still there. They’ve expanded into an adjoining storefront to occupy 5,000 square feet filled with racks of dresses, spools of thread, sewing machines, automated embroidery machines, Satish’s prized aquarium — and dreams. Just about every 20 minutes, a different bride-to-be walks in the door and is soon revolving in front of a mirror, her mother or bridesmaid looking on as Juliana grabs up a bit of fabric here and inserts a bra cup there.
“Every dress is different and every person is different,” Juliana said. “Most of the time I have to shorten the dress and put a bustle on so the girls can dance in their wedding gown. And then I have to size them in, make it fit them. Everyone wants to look pretty on their wedding day.”
Juliana says she was a skilled seamstress before opening the shop but has definitely learned on the job. For one thing, she encourages brides to schedule a final fitting close to the big day. “They can lose weight, gain weight or get pregnant.”
The shop’s clientele extends far beyond Wichita. Juliana regularly works on dresses bought in Kansas City, Oklahoma City or on the East Coast and has done several alterations for Kleinfeld Bridal, setting of the popular reality TV show “Say Yes to the Dress.” The Charys credit word-of-mouth advertising, lots of positive online reviews and their willingness to accept a job no matter how tight the deadline. There was a bride, for instance, who flew in on Friday night for a wedding to be held Sunday.
“I’m a person who can never say no,” Juliana said.
Alternations to prom dresses are another big part of Quick Stitch’s business, starting each year in January. “It’s a madhouse,” Satish said. Quick Stitch sponsors Miss Kansas each year, altering the winner’s gown, swimsuit and other outfits used in the Miss USA pageant. The Charys work on everything from names on uniforms for employees of the Kansas Department of Corrections to adding Velcro to garments that are used to protect jail inmates from harming themselves. Or, as Juliana says, “Everything from bridal to suicidal.”
Juliana says her husband always thought America was the “land of opportunity” and it’s worked out that way for the couple, who have three children. But they take nothing for granted. Juliana sometimes works from 4:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“I enjoy working,” she said. “I’ll keep doing it as long as my hands let me.”
And knees, she might add.
Now you know
Address: 550 N. Rock Road
Owners: Juliana and Satish Chary
Website: Quick Stitchwichita.com