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Patchwork of talents

Whether it's a pair of jeans or something decidedly more delicate, there are few fabrics Pamela Chapman hasn't sewn in her two decades as a seamstress.

"I've sewn on underwear, I've sewn on purses, just about every type of fabric there is — even plastic," Chapman said.

For the past six years Chapman has owned Alteration Center, a consortium of independent seamstresses and tailors under one roof off Barnett Road. Over the past year the number of sewing professionals at the site has grown from two to six.

"Just as of this year, we have brought in four new seamstresses to help with the demand," Chapman said. "It's just been continually growing."

The center's business model of independent tailors and seamstresses in one place is a unique one, according to Chapman.

"Most seamstresses either work out of their home, or in a dry cleaner environment," she said. "We're all independent."

Chapman's alterations career began in earnest about 15 years ago when she opened Tigress Sewing and Alteration on Crater Lake Avenue.

"I got to where my sewing room just wasn't big enough," she said.

At Tigress she tried hiring seamstresses, but found payroll costs, from wages to unemployment insurance, outweighed the benefits of the extra help.

"I was working twice as hard just to keep up with their pay," she said.

She struggled to find a better way to run an alterations business when years later inspiration struck her.

"Knowing that there was a demand out there, I felt like it was a God-given idea," she said. "Why not run it like a beauty salon?"

Today the six seamstresses and tailors boast a spectrum of skills and experiences, from Southern Oregon University fashion and costume design students to veteran stitchers.

"One of our seamstresses worked in a dry cleaners for over 30 years," Chapman said, referring to her longtime associate Gwen Strawick. "Her big qualifications are on men's suits."

The seamstresses set their own prices for the services they render, and the more established seamstresses have their own clientele. Certain jobs, however, are shared between the seamstresses so they can learn from each other.

"We try to rotate so they can do everything," business manager Dani Fallgreen said.

Fallgreen has also helped the center organize outreach to provide onsite alterations at senior centers such as Veranda Park.

Another way Fallgreen and Chapman have sought to build the business is through discounts for employees at partner businesses such as Macy's.

"It helps them refer their customers if they know what we do," Fallgreen said while outlining atypical sewing needs that the center fills such as curtains, costumes and light upholstery. "It's not just bridal."

For example, although men's suits sold at Macy's can be altered through a corporate tailor, store associates refer customers to the Alteration Center when they need a quicker turnaround.

"Our turnaround time is a week or less," Chapman said.

The center also provides sewing services for municipal uniforms, such as badges for Jacksonville firefighters and altering Central Point police uniform pockets to accommodate new body cameras.

Alteration Center is in the WinCo Plaza at 259 E. Barnett Road, Suite B, Medford. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The phone number is 541-772-8535.

Nick Morgan is a news aide for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at nmorgan@mailtribune.com or 541-776-4477.

Pamela Chapman, owner of the Alteration Center in Medford, says the consortium of independent seamstresses and tailors under one roof is a similar business model to a hair salon. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell