The Inta and Dmitriy show: "I will tell you everything I know, but I just take the money. I'm the husband, accountant, mechanic and janitor. She's the real hero," says Dmitriy Krasill. He's talking about his wife, Inta Yostson, the star of Inta's Men's and Women's Alterations in Patchen Village.
Behind the irony curtain: Yostson is tailor and seamstress; she can measure, fit, and alter any piece of clothing, from a UK Women's Wildcats jersey to the uniform of a U.S. Marine. But she's a star who prefers to labor behind the curtain, in the workroom, getting things done while her husband holds down the counter, greeting customers and keeping up a running banter in his Russian accent — a veritable Yakov Smirnoff of Patchen Drive. In America, the people hem the uniforms. In Russia, the uniforms hem the people.
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You'll leave there in stitches: "I never say 'I'll get your order,' I just say 'I'll try to find your order.' It's a search and rescue mission," jokes Krasill, off in hot pursuit of a pantsuit, customer's ticket in hand.
Thread cred: Inta Yostson completed a three-year technical program in her native Latvia but has been sewing since she was very young. As a teenager it was because the outfits in department stores in then-Soviet Latvia lacked a certain pizazz, and she wanted to make her own.
After completing school and meeting Krasill, her life took a distinctly Western turn. In 1991, the former Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic declared its independence as the Soviet Union collapsed, and soon after that a married Inta and Dmitriy, with the help of a family connection, flew west to Lexington. The couple opened their first shop in their apartment in 1992.
Rocky start: Running a shop from home can be tough. They saved on overhead, but Inta was always working.
"She would be like Rocky, you know. Beyond human. She's crazy responsible. I tell her, 'People can live without these pants,' but shekeeps ... " and here he demonstrates like an exhausted boxer, flailing away at the air.
After two years, they moved to a small space in Patchen Village. Unfortunately, their closest neighbor was a Dumpster.
"I told customers, 'If you cannot see us you can smell us,' " says Krasill. A dispute with the landlord about that Dumpster grew heated: "I was incredibly stubborn."
He comes by that stubbornness naturally: Krasill was raised in the city formerly called Stalingrad, which held off Hitler's army in one of the deadliest battles in history. What's one Dumpster compared to the Third Reich?
But all that's in the past. Now Krasill and Yostson are happily ensconced in an aromatic end unit on Patchen Drive.
Bob, bob bobbin' along: Inta's is open only on weekday afternoons, but the sewing goes on 10-11 hours a day and on weekends.
Economic downturn? They've been too busy sewing to notice.
Krasill's pride and joy, besides his wife, are his 18 machines. One heavy-duty workhouse has the potential to handle 2,000 pairs of jeans in a day, he boasts, if used "in a factory environment."
But, he quickly adds, for a sewing machine, working in an alteration shop is "like a vacation on the beach in Mexico" compared to brutal factory life.
There are half a dozen sergers, a machine that turns out the finished seams found on retail garments.
But it's Inta's skills he crows about the most.
"Once I wanted to be a Fortune 500 company. I wanted to be the capital of alteration," Krasill says, looking at his wife. "I'm the balloon; she holds the string. She keeps my dreams on earth." Yostson's smile betrays a hint of, "You see what I have to live with?"
Help is just around the corner: "I'm terrific with buttons. I should get a job with cardboard sitting on the street corner sewing buttons," says Krasill. For anything more complicated, the couple is helped in the shop by Lyudmila Boyechko, seamstress and mother of six. "All her children are geniuses, by the way." Other employees have left to open their own businesses. Two are quite nearby. "We take this well. It feels warm to have them close," he jokes. "We even send each other customers."
Always bridesmaids, never brides: Their busiest seasons are fall, spring and Derby. "I don't know why horses care what people wear, but that's how it is." Inta's gets business from individuals, teams, and retail stores. If you buy pants or a dress in Lexington and want it altered, there's a good chance it could come to them.
But they had to stop accepting wedding gowns. It took away too much time from their regular clientele. "We had to make a choice," says Krasill.
Dear Inta: The wall of Inta's reception area is lined with signed publicity shots from a decade of Miss Kentuckys, all thanking Inta and her magic needle for making them look good on their big night.
But most of Inta's customers are neither beauty queens nor basketball players. They come from all walks of life, "from the high end to the projects," says Krasill. "We like everybody." After all, he says, in America, "we learned how to smile."