As Her Business Name Says, Beth Richard Sews It All
23 May 2023
Beth Richard has a business for all seasons. The meteorological seasons, certainly – but also the economic ones.
Richard is the sole proprietor and only employee of Sew It All, the full service tailor shop she has operated in three different locations in Groton for the past 39 years. The skills she began developing on her grandmother’s old sewing machine and continues to refine and expand serve a wide range of customers and needs, from replacing buttons on sentimental items of clothing to custom-designed wedding gowns.
Consequently, she’s found that whatever the economic conditions between boom and bust, she can count on customers, a luxury she appreciates.
“In good times, you have a lot of wealthy people traveling and shopping more often, and when times are tight, as they’ve been since Covid, people are more likely to repair items than buy new ones,” she said. “In a way, the business is recession-proof.”
No Challenge Too Great
Richard’s business thrives not only because her customers come from all economic classes, but because she can provide solutions to the most challenging repair problems. Richard estimates that “a solid 30 percent” of her business involves repair work.
“Everybody has a favorite piece of clothing,” she notes. “It might be the pair of pajamas you like to wear when you’re sick in bed, or that first good raincoat you bought out of college, or that jacket you found in the closet that belonged to your dad.”
Sometimes, Richard is able to repair the item, even when there’s little fabric left to work with, and sometimes Richard finds a new purpose for it, such as turning an old shirt into a new cover for a couch pillow. “Part of the fun of the business is you never know what’s going to come in the door,” she said.
Richard admits there are some jobs she can’t do – “I don’t have magic here,” she laughed but the variety of fabrics she works on is impressive. As is the money she can save her clients.
For those who took up boating during the pandemic, she is able to make repairs on sails and all-weather furniture and fabrics that take a beating from the winds, salt air, and seagull droppings. Likewise for upholstery and curtains on private planes. She even was able to create from scratch a replacement for the collection bag on a riding leaf collector, saving the customer hundreds of dollars.
“These aren’t little expenses anymore,” she said.
A Real Cut-Up at Home
Richard was 10 years old when her grandmother died and her sewing machine ended up in her bedroom. She cut up the curtains in her room for practice, then moved on to her bedspread. “Finally somebody wised up and bought me some fabric,” Richard recalled.
She credits her Home Economics teachers in high school and college for giving her extra projects to broaden her skills. She picked up her expertise with military uniforms in her first job, at the Naval Submarine Base. Eventually, she said she realized, “I had to figure out how to go into business for myself.”
Her first location was a storefront next to Ortega’s Mexican Restaurant on North St. She then took space in the former H&R Block building at the rear of the Groton Shopping Plaza before moving across the parking lot into the rear of the Sherwin-Williams Paint Store at 86 Plaza Court.
Despite frequently facing a line of customers to see her, Richard said it makes more sense to work alone. “When you own a small business, everyone wants to deal with the owner,” she said. During the week she doesn’t open for customers until noon, “because I need mornings to do my work with no interruptions. I don’t even answer the phone.”
More business available than she has time to handle it all? For Beth Richard, it’s a good kind of problem to have, whatever the season.