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'I can't live without it': Staff at 35 year-old Vancouver shop given two weeks' notice the business has sold

Townline Tailors in Vancouver is changing owners at the end of August.

It's a heartbreaking scene at Townline Tailors on Howe Street in Downtown Vancouver as a seamstress who has been working there since 1998 holds back tears. She declines to be identified but when asked what tailoring means to her, she replies: "I can't live without it."

"This is my home; when I come here I feel like coming home. I can't imagine losing this place after 25 years," the employee says. 

The store was founded by Frank Blaeser in 1986. After immigrating to Vancouver from Germany in 1953, he worked at Drapeshire Clothes for many years before opening his own shop, Townline Tailors.

When Bleaser passed away in 2013 at age 82, the business was bought by Eric Sana and merged with Altered Image based out of Toronto. Though slightly re-branded to Townline Tailors by Eric Sana, the shop retained its original name. Much of Blaeser's legacy also remained intact especially since one of the original seamstresses remained to carry on his memory.

On Tuesday (Aug 16), the store's employees were informed that Townline was sold on Saturday morning and that shop's current owner will be departing at the end of the month. 

Jude Ling Choung, a professional manager who was hired four months ago to help with the business, says that business has been slow since the pandemic.  Though Townline continued to offer its full services, unlike many other tailors in Vancouver who cut back to solely offering alterations, the clientele started dwindling because they want alterations, tailoring, and dry cleaning all in one place. However, Townline does have contracts with Cos and Kit and Ace locations in Vancouver.

According to Ling Choung, he was hired by Sana to "save the business." Ling Choung says Sana made a quick visit to Vancouver over the weekend when the sale deal was inked; Sana brought Ling Choung on as a witness to the paperwork. 

Now Ling Choung says he is tasked with passing on the unfortunate news and calling clients individually to tell them they have to pick up their items before the end of August.

Townline has been sold to a husband and wife tailoring operation, so the location will remain the same business type. However, the future is still uncertain for the people who work there. One employee is away in Bosnia and expecting to return to her job in September.

"It was a big shock losing Frank. He was a tailor, designer, master," says the seamstress who knew the original owner. 

New owners speak out about the future of Townline Tailors

On Aug. 17, Hana Mahmoodi, who is the new business owner with her husband, Najib Kazemi, is now speaking out in the hopes of allaying some of the fears for Townline customers and staff - including a dominant fear among shop employees the business name would be changed.

"We have no intention or interest in changing the name of the business and never have. We understand that Townline Tailors has been around for a very long time so we have always had the intention to keep that legacy going," Mahmoodi explains in an email to V.I.A.

Mahmoodi, who says she and her husband are professional tailors themselves, will be making staffing decisions, and anticipate a mix of having to part ways with some employees, taking on a heavy workload themselves, and retaining some senior staff.

"As you know, COVID has brought many businesses to a screeching halt so we know that getting this up and running will take a lot of work on our end," adds Mahmoodi.

"We hope you understand that we are not going into this wanting to intentionally take away work from the existing staff however we are wanting to make it as successful as possible with what circumstances we are given now."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new information as it became available