Pioneer Square tailor Be Van Nguyen arrived at Sea-Tac airport almost three decades ago with the clothes he was wearing, a small box containing a book, a pen, socks, a T-shirt and "not one cent in my pocket. No money. Nothing."
Be Van Nguyen arrived at Sea-Tac airport almost three decades ago with the clothes he was wearing, a small box containing a book, a pen, socks, a T-shirt and “not one cent in my pocket. No money. Nothing.”
Born outside Saigon, Vietnam, he’d learned to be a tailor in his uncle’s shop in Biên Hòa.
He worked hard, saved and borrowed enough to open his own shop in Pioneer Square in 1984.
He says it’s about 350 square feet. One customer crowds the space, and two are a traffic jam.
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Nguyen calls his store Adam Tailor after a name he saw and liked in Vietnam. Six days a week he does alterations, hunched over his old, reliable sewing machine. The sewing machine has red hearts drawn on it by his three grandchildren. To the upper left is a smiling photo of Nguyen wearing a suit he made in the late ’60s for a U.S. soldier. “We were the same size,” he says.
It was 10 years before Nguyen could bring his wife and three children over from Vietnam — “so long, so very long.”
When Nguyen takes a rare vacation, he returns to see family and friends in Vietnam. But mainly he works 10-hour days six days a week.
Nguyen no longer makes suits from scratch, he just does alterations. “I’m too old.” He’s 58.