A tailored career
After trying many jobs on for size, Madison tailor finds the one that suits him best is making others shine.
Mario Gahona, at Monetti Tailoring on University Avenue.
Photographs by Sarah Maughan
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Monetti Tailoring on University Avenue is a place where four electric sewing machines replace office desks as workers rip seams, hem slacks, and replace zippers. Proprietor Mario Gahona, 40, took the business over in 2014 from its founder and namesake, Luigi “Gino” Monetti. “We laughed when we first met,” recalls Gahona. “I was Mario, he was Luigi, just like the video game (Mario Bros.),” he smiles. “I love Gino like a brother or uncle.”
Monetti Tailoring has been in business for over 20 years, altering everything from bridal wear to uniforms. On a back rack, garments and draperies hang as a reminder of work needing to be done. There’s an ROTC jacket, several wedding gowns, a faux-fur coat, a University Police uniform, leather jackets, and men’s and women’s suits.
Each has already been pinned to ensure that items are perfectly sized.
In 2002, when Gahona first arrived in the U.S. with tailoring experience, his “dream job” was to work as a server for a Perkins Restaurant and learn English. He laughs about that now.
Gahona shortens the length of a man’s suit jacket from the top, marking the shoulder with chalk, opening and adjusting the seam, and then cutting a piece of fabric from under the collar to raise the coat length.
He did work for Perkins before being hired as a tailor at Marshall Field’s (which was later acquired by Macy’s) in Minneapolis. After agreeing to help out a friend in the roofing business during his off-hours, Gahona soon realized that roofing paid better than tailoring. “I made a lot more money roofing a few hours a week than at Marshall Field’s,” he notes.
In 2006, after storms hit the Madison area, Gahona and his friend moved here to work as subcontractors for a local roofing firm. Unfortunately, they weren’t the only roofers with that idea. “There was so much competition, I lost everything,” he says. “I had to find another job.”
Eventually, he wandered into Monetti Tailoring, met Gino, and forged his career.
Now he runs the shop, manages five employees, and keeps customers well dressed and perfectly fitted. “I’m very strict,” he says of his management style. “I think that’s important when managing, and it helps them learn.”
The employees don’t seem to mind. Anna, a young seamstress from Middleton, has worked at the shop for four years and particularly enjoys the wedding gown work. “In stores, gowns are sold in standard measurements,” she says, but body types differ greatly, which is why tailoring is required to ensure the perfect fit. On any given day, work may require beading or attaching lace. She also loves the variety of work that comes in. Just a few weeks earlier, the shop was asked to alter 53 pairs of khaki pants for the Wisconsin Badgers football team. “We had an assembly line of pants,” Anna laughs.
Martha joined Monetti Tailoring three months ago after working as a tailor for many years in Madison at David’s Bridal and Nedrebo’s Formal Wear. “I love my job,” she smiles, shyly.
Daniel has been with the store three years. He learned to sew early in his life, but alterations, he says, “are a completely different world. This is not something I like, this is something I love.”
Having just earned his GED, Daniel will be enrolling in the fashion-marketing program at Madison College this fall.