PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — As a teenager in a big family, Terry Burtchell knew that if she wanted stylish clothes that fit her tastes without draining her budget, she would have to take matters into her own hands.
And that is literally what she did, gathering fabric, needles, thread and transforming them into outfits that drew praise from friends and strangers alike.
A few decades later, not only is her work still getting attention, it is also putting money in the bank and serving as a springboard for one of her daughters to showcase her own talents.
Burtchell owns and operates The Seamstress, a business she opened almost three and a half years ago in The Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle. Working with her husband, Stephen, and daughter, Holly Burtchell, she taps into her 36 years of experience to offer custom tailoring, fittings, alterations, sewing machine repair and service, and more.
Burtchell branched out nearly two years ago to offer consignment prom, bridal and pageant gowns, and said during a recent interview that each year seems to get busier.
“I have always had a thing for sewing,” she explained. “My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all seamstresses, so I was around that all of my life. I made all of my own clothes in high school, and when I had three daughters of my own, I made some of their clothes and did a lot of volunteer sewing.”
As word about her talent spread, Burtchell said that she was contacted by a doctor’s wife who wanted her to sew some clothes for her. She was officially in business.
“There really are not a lot of seamstresses in this area,” she said. “You see a lot of people who if they have a favorite piece of clothing that they grow out of or it gets a hole in it or a zipper breaks, they just go out and buy something new. That’s unnecessary and expensive.”
In 1995, Burtchell began working as a seamstress for Pancsofar’s Bridal Shop. She opened her own shop on Main Street in 2007 and moved to the mall in 2009.
“She really did need more space,” daughter Holly said during the interview. “We are very happy here at the mall.”
It was the additional space that allowed the store to expand and offer consignment dresses and other services. That expansion also has illuminated Holly’s talents.
She began working at her mother’s shop two years ago. A short time later, she saw a need for an event planner to help flustered brides organize one of the most important days of their lives. To fill the void, she started Weddings By HollyAnn, offering full-service wedding planning, coordination and consultation. She operates out of The Seamstress and is now a licensed bridal consultant and member of The Association of Bridal Consultants.
“I am really enjoying myself,” she said. “Just like my mother, I am a perfectionist, and I will do whatever it takes to make sure that the wedding of your dreams is what you have. One of the big things too is that women worry a lot about how things are going to fit on their wedding day, or they stress over what will happen if a button pops on a bridesmaid’s dress or something. That is something I can easily take care of through the services I provide.”
“She has a talent for it,” Terry Burtchell said of her daughter “She puts brides at ease.”
Both women said that getting into consignment dresses has helped ease the financial strain on young women who want to attend their prom, a pageant or another formal event, but don’t have the money to pick a dress right off the rack.
“A lot of times, you see a girl who has paid more than $300 for a dress and they wear it for a few hours and that’s it,” said Holly Burtchell. “Those dresses are usually in perfect shape. They bring it here and we have it professionally cleaned and can tailor it for you if need be. It takes a lot of financial stress off of the buyer, and its something that you are very happy to wear.”
Besides tailoring clothes, Terry Burtchell also spends time sewing patches and other items on uniforms for police and fire departments.
“We really don’t do much advertising at all,” she said. “Its mostly word-of-mouth.”
From the start of prom season right through wedding season, The Seamstress is always busy.
“Some days we’ll spend 10 or 12 hours here,” said Burtchell. “But when it is something that you love and you have a passion for, it doesn’t really feel like work.”
For more information about The Seamstress, log on to: http://seamstressterryburtchell.com/
More information about Weddings By HollyAnn can be found on Facebook.