By Rick Rouan
Customers today are content to wear clothes off the rack, a retiring tailor says.
BOARDMAN — Donato “John” DiNello was only 6 when he began training as a tailor’s apprentice after school in Pacentro, Italy.
Now, after working more than 60 years at his craft, the 69-year-old is closing the doors on his Market Street business for good at the end of the year.
DiNello Men’s Wear has been open at various locations on Market Street since 1978, but health problems and falling prices at big-box retailers have forced the business to close, DiNello said.
“Tailors and shoemakers don’t survive anymore,” said DiNello, through a heavy Italian accent. “Everyone is buying from China. They’re not looking for a tailor anymore.”
The buying habits of customers have shifted, DiNello said, from customized fits to the general sizes off the rack at department stores.
When he came to the United States as a 25-year-old, people had a greater appreciation for his craft, DiNello said.
But some dedicated customers still remain, DiNello said.
“It’s an old-world art to be a tailor, and Mr. DiNello knows the difference in ‘one size fits all’ versus making a suit fit you,” said Dante Zambrini, superintendent of Canfield schools.
Zambrini said he has been a DiNello’s customer for the better part of a decade and that he is saddened by the news of the shop’s closing.
“To work here in this area and become a small-business owner, it becomes more difficult when you’re going against the big-box stores,” Zambrini said.
All that remains in the shop, 7050 Market St., are a rack of suit jackets and pants, some ties and the tools of DiNello’s trade: irons, large scissors and sewing machines. Everything now is discounted by 70 percent.
At one time, though, the shop was filled with racks of clothing and customers, DiNello said.
That was before the proliferation of big department stores selling suits at heavily discounted prices, DiNello said.
Customers now scoff at the idea of paying $20 to alter a suit for which they paid only about $100, he said.
“They sell clothes very cheap anymore,” DiNello said. “The bottom line is that [customers] ask, ‘How much?’”
DiNello moved to the U.S. in 1965 as part of an arranged marriage to his wife, Virginia, a Youngstown native.
Just one year later, the DiNellos moved to New York City to run a tailoring business.
But the family returned in 1974 to Youngstown, where DiNello worked at a department store for four years before opening his business on Market Street.
John and Virginia worked together in tandem throughout those 31 years, with Virginia pulling out stitches in the back and John doing the tailoring.
But with declining profits and health problems to boot, DiNello said that 31 years is enough.
In the spring, DiNello had eye surgery and still has problems with cataracts.
“I had to call my wife to thread the needle,” he said. “She’s my right hand.”
At one time, DiNello said, he thought one of his five children would take over the family business, but their career paths took them in other directions.
“Nobody wants to learn the trade anymore,” he said.
Zambrini said that when DiNello closes his doors, though, Youngstown is losing one of the few people who still practice a “lost art.”
“I think the analogy would be that he is to tailoring what a talented surgeon is to skillful surgery,” he said.