Customers of Stephen Dean’s Tailors aren’t quite sure what to do when Dean retires this spring — they say there is no other local talent equal to him.
“It’s the end of an era,” client Ron Cheney told Dean on a recent weekday. “There is not another master tailor in the city. You’re it. … I bet you I referred over 1,000 people.”
Dean is retiring after 46 years in the business. He’s served as Gov. Mark Dayton’s tailor for decades, and his clients include notables like Mayor Betsy Hodges and Ron Meshbesher.
He’s known for taking on complicated projects. He can take pleats out of pants. When “skinny” leggings became the fashion, he altered pants into skinny fits. He said he’s watched the trend in skirt lengths change from “Annie Oakley to Marilyn Monroe.”
His workspace features sewing machines and a steam press that date back to the 1940s — “they work,” he said.
Dean learned the basics of sewing from his sisters, and he started working as a tailor at age 26 for Arthur Koritz in the Northstar building Downtown.
“They had a master tailor from Italy who took me under his wing,” he said. “He taught me almost everything he knew.”
He spent three years at Arthur Koritz, followed by three years at Dayton’s.
“First I learned how to do good, then I learned how to do fast,” he said.
When he started his own business 40 years ago, he set up shop in his grandfather’s basement in Uptown.
“Word of mouth spread like crazy,” he said. “People were coming at all hours of the day and night.”
That arrangement lasted about three or four months, until his current spot in Kenwood became available. It was previously home to a dog groomer and a Wicker Works shop.
Dean said his lease is up in April.
“It’s time to do something different,” he said.
Dean lives in Uptown and enjoys walking to the grocery store, spending time at the cabin, and visiting good restaurants in the neighborhood. He supposes he’ll have more time now to walk his two dogs.
Dean will stop taking clothing for alterations at the end of March, and plans to move out in late April.
“It’s been a very fascinating career,” he said.