In a second-floor walk-up, at the upper end of Main Street, Carolyn Chudzik and her good friend Terry Eliason opened a Window Dressing and Slipcover Shop almost 20 years ago. Working with some 1950’s era Singer Sewing Machines purchased from old garment factories in Fall River, MA, an old Lewis Machine bartered for work completed and a rack from Marlow’s Department Store (remember Marlow’s?) the shop has made drapes, slipcovers, bed skirts and pillows for homes all over the area including two Cheney Mansions.
All but one of the machines was manufactured in the 1950s or earlier and according to Carolyn, “The machines are real workhorses without any bells or whistles.” Carolyn has found a reliable senior repairman who enjoys working on these machines.
The work completed by Carolyn and Terry is truly custom. During my visit, Carolyn shared some pictures of finished window treatments and slipcovers. The slipcovered couches looked more like re-upholstered furniture than the slipcovers I imagined. I have purchased slipcovers at various box stores or online over the years that have to be re-adjusted every time someone sits on them. Not so with this custom work. Some of the window treatments have four or five different types of trim blended expertly to create a unique finished product.
One of the shops more creative solutions for people with young children and pets came to the seamstresses from a client. They use a painter’s drop cloth to make slipcovers for a family room couch. There may be some imperfections in the fabric but with the deft touch that comes from 20 years of experience on the old workhorse machines, the custom look on all of their projects is striking. Also, the drop cloths are really durable.
Carolyn and her husband Bill have lived in Manchester since 1980. They bought a house and raised their three children in town. Her children attended Nathan Hale, Bennet, and Manchester High School and went on to become a musician, a nurse, and a teacher.
Carolyn actually started the business at home making drapes for friends and acquaintances but the business quickly outgrew the space. She found this shop within walking distance of home. Working close to home turned out to be a tremendous advantage over the years as her children became more independent but still occasionally in need of adult supervision. She recalled one day when one of her children called her at the shop to ask how to turn off the smoke detector. She was home in 2 minutes.
Carolyn likes being located on Main St and being a part of the downtown Manchester scene. She has a great view of the sledding hill at Center Memorial Park out her large front windows. She describes her shop as a studio shop more than a retail place. The location of the studio on the second floor has curtailed the number of unexpected shoppers, allowing for more time to complete jobs.
In addition to the skill and camaraderie offered by Terry and the great location in downtown Manchester, Carolyn also credits the success of her business to a fantastic landlord, Raheem Shamash.
Carolyn and Terry are not really looking for many new jobs at this time as they ponder retirement.