Sew it Goes

Twenty-three years ago, a newly married Jenny Chew left her farming village in Canton, China, for a new life in the United States with her husband, who had immigrated years earlier and was working as a letter carrier in Mill Valley. Today, Jenny is celebrating her tenth year as owner of Twins Alterations on Ark Row in Tiburon. Where did you learn to sew? My mom taught me. Was she a seamstress? No, she worked on a farm, but she made lots of our clothing. She was so busy that I would sew clothes for the family. I have three sisters and a brother. How did you end up with this shop? When I first came to America, I worked in a family restaurant. Then I started sewing. I worked at Alterations to Go in Greenbrae. A friend, Judy Tang, owned this business and I bought it when she retired. And changed the name? I didn’t want to put my name on it like Judy did, so I thought, well, I have twin daughters. What are their names? Lena and Julie. They are 21. Lena is at UCLA. Julie is in Hong Kong at Polytechnic University. Did they ever work here? Not so much. They were too busy studying. Julie, the older one, is studying fashion design and sewing. Older? She was first, by two minutes. Are they more American or more Chinese? More Chinese. They’re not like American girls who go out a lot. They’re a little bit quiet, like me. What do your customers need? The women have lots of nice clothing. Sometimes they have lost weight and they still love their old clothes and they ask me to make them fit for them. And the men? Some are gaining weight and I let things out for them. Do you have any employees? When I am busy, I have a girl who helps me a little bit, but most of the work I do by myself. Is it difficult to find someone who knows how to sew? Yes, in Marin it is very hard, and harder to find a good one, too. Does the work get tiring? Sometimes, from leaning forward, leaning over to see the seams and the needle. And my hands ache. Before Judy retired, I saw her hands and mine are getting like that. How much do you work? The sign says five days a week, but usually I work six because I come on the closed days to finish the work. But you like what you do? Yes, I like to work and I am so happy to work here because I have lots of nice customers.