Weaver is to snag some time off


January 29, 1992|By Jacques Kelly

Baltimore's accident ward for injured cashmere, sharkskin, gabardine, flannel, worsted, tweed and herringbone is closing.

The owner of Bud Weiner's Reliable Weaving Co., a downtown shop that once fixed a hole in one of President Herbert C. Hoover's suits, is hanging it up after 73 years in the mending business.

At the shop in the 200 block of W. Saratoga St., snagged sweaters and pulled pants legs come out looking as perfect as the day they were manufactured.

"People have been so grateful for what we do," Bud Weiner said. "I'd say we have the finest customer base of any business on the East Coast."

This plain little operation -- half the neon sign is broken -- has walls covered with testimonial letters. A Californian wrote that she first began doing business with him in 1933. A Ruxton businessman acknowledged the invisible repair done on his prized Cheviot overcoat. A Lock Haven, Pa., clothier sent a blank check for whatever it cost to repair a suit.

"It's a tedious business," Mr. Weiner said. "Only certain people can do it."

His small workroom employs a handful of women who use magnifying glasses as they pull threads. The women take strands from the garment and reweave them to make a repair.

"A weaver usually loves to weave, to keep her hands moving," Mr. Weiner said. "One of our weavers, Edna Finnegan, worked 65 years here. She never went anywhere without working with her hands. Even going home, she had her knitting needles and was making a piece of crochet work."

At one time, Mr. Weiner employed 14 weavers, known as "operators." In the past, the shop accepted for repair large numbers of men's suits made in Baltimore's old garment manufacturing district. Many of these garments had tiny imperfections that originated in the woolen mills.

Mr. Weiner's business was founded by Anne Barry in 1919. He and his brother, Paul Weiner, who later left to become a successful lawyer in Atlanta, bought the shop in 1946 when Saratoga Street was full of small service-oriented firms. There were jewelers, beauty salons, custom corset and shoemaking shops, dentists, doctors, hat makers and manicurists.

Mr. Weiner's father, a Liberty Street fur coat maker who specialized in rabbit-skin garments, suggested his sons go into the reweaving business.

"My father thought it would be just great for us," Mr. Weiner said. "I was told always depend on the individual customer. The big manufacturers can disappear on you overnight. They all did."

Much of Mr. Weiner's business still comes from commercial sources. Many Baltimore department stores and men's shops call on his staff to fix small holes and tears. A Louisiana tuxedo rental house sends up dress suits for salvaging.

Reweaving can cost. "People are often surprised at what it costs to weave a hole," Mr. Weiner said. "There's been plenty of price resistance over the years. But after they have the work done, they are so delighted. Reweaving is not cheap. It's not like having a patch put on.

"When money is scarce, it's scarce for us as well," Mr. Weiner said. "If anything, people will just go to a tailor and tell him to stitch a rip up as best as he can. They won't go to the trouble -- and cost -- of having a perfect reweave job done."

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