Sonny Truong, 51, is the owner of Unique Tailor and Cleaners, located inside the Okemos Meijer. Originally from Vietnam, he has been handling Lansing residents’ alteration and dry-cleaning needs for almost 22 years. He enjoys every project he is given, from small fixes to designing full outfits.
When did you come to the United States?
I came here in 1995. My uncle served in the military for South Vietnam. He was sent to prison and a re-education camp by the Communist government, so he qualified for the Orderly Departure Program between the U.S. and Vietnamese governments, and I was able to come with him. I ended up in Lansing through the sponsorship of St. Vincent Catholic Charities Refugee Services and my uncle’s friend.
Why did you decide to start your tailoring business?
In 2001, I was taking classes at Lansing Community College to learn computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing and was planning on going into automobile manufacturing. However, when the time came for me to find an internship, the program that I was enrolled in was discontinued. I was working as a tailor at that time. I decided I wanted to pursue this full time and open my own business. My wife and I found our current location in the Okemos Meijer and opened our shop in 2001. From there, we worked together to develop and promote Unique Tailor and Cleaners.
How did you get your location in Meijer?
Before we started business, we tried to find a location. At the time, we walked around, and we saw Meijer had a good space for rent. We started calling the leasing office, and we went from there. I built the fitting rooms myself. All the tables, I did myself. My wife and I built it from scratch.
Do you do most of your grocery shopping there?
(Laughs) Yes, but we’re on the second floor.
What is the best part of running your shop?
My favorite part is the ability to talk to and interact with people every day. Many regular customers have come back to us for alterations since we first opened. It’s nice to see them and catch up with them when they come in again. Many customers have known my kids since they were just infants, and now they come in and ask about how they are doing. It’s a really heartwarming feeling to know that we are able to connect with our customers and help them. When customers are happy, we’re happy.
How long have you been sewing for?
About 30 years. I started sewing in Vietnam. My best friend ran a tailor shop. He trained me how to make shirts and pants and do alterations.
I enjoy it very much. I can turn a piece of fabric into something that people can wear and/or use daily. Or I can alter something that doesn’t fit into a better fit.
What’s the craziest piece you’ve ever worked on?
A custom-made sofa. That one was very challenging. I do all kinds of alterations here. We custom-make drapes, curtains, repair and replace couches — upholstery.
What do you like to do when you’re not at the shop?
I have a lot of things to do at home besides work. Mainly, I play music in my free time. I also do handyman work a lot. Repairs, small remodeling jobs. I’m a very active man. I don’t stop working, at the shop or outside of the shop.
What kind of music?
I play the piano. I started playing for fun when I came here. It was interesting, so I learned more. I began piano lessons in the year 2001 or something. Just for a few years, and then I stopped. I learned the rest online by myself. We also participate in a choir at church, and I started to play the organ there.
Is religion a big part of your life?
Yes, religion has always been a big part of my life. I joined a choir back in Vietnam. Since I moved to the U.S., I have always participated in my church, and now I play piano and organ for the choir there. Outside of church, I joined the Lansing Brother Band, and I play for the community and for church events.
— Nicole Noechel
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