Address: 139 Chapel St, Windsor VIC 3181
Phone: (03) 9510 2498
From an interview with Emmanuel Dakis that has been edited.
We started here in 1966.
We were given the Australian Business Quality Award in 2013. Not in Victoria but in Australia. Gold award. Not silver or bronze. Excellence in Customer Service. Not just for a tailor but for all businesses.
I’m Greek. In Greek culture the grandson takes the grandfather’s name. The first tailor in the family was my grandfather, Emmanuel Dakis. My father was Nicholas II and I’m the third. And we have it in the blood. My daughter is a fourth generation tailor. She loves it and has been here for 17 years.
In the good times we used to have ten people working upstairs in a small factory. Greek, Italian and Spanish. Now they have retired.
And the clothes on the wall are new, but old.
You know what I mean?
They’re perfect quality.
I learned how to do all of this because I was born in a tailor shop.
From age two I played with old machines. From ten years old, I could make trousers because after school we were there. And, when I finished school at fifteen years old I said to my father, “I want to work full time.”
“Emmanuel, I can’t stop production.” He said.
“Your father is not wrong,” My grandfather said.
But, my father took a siesta at lunch. We closed at one and opened at four. I wasn’t asleep at that time so I worked with my grandfather.
I picked up a lot of his knowledge.
When we opened the business my English was very bad.
I’ve been here fifty-one years but my English is still not the best. This is because I came for work not to study.
Now, I don’t make new clothes because – a lot of the time – I can’t get good staff. I do special jobs that nobody else is doing. Why? It’s because I have the knowledge and the tools from my grandfather.
Look at some of the clothes that people have brought in. They went to another place and the tailor butchered it. There are many holes. Afterwards, somebody recommended me and I took the thread and weaved the holes shut.
Look at the pants. Under the crotch there is a rupture. The other tailors can’t do invisible mending because they don’t have the tools. I have strong threads. Strong materials. It lasts forever. If it breaks, I’d give you one million dollars.
What other tailors can’t do, I can do.
A customer recently brought in fifteen pairs of trousers.
People come here because of mouth-to-mouth communication. They hear that I am the cheapest and the best. I used to advertise in the Yellow Pages but, now, I have got more work than what I need to do.
I am 76 and I still work 12 hours a day and six days a week. From 4:30 am to 4:30 pm. It’s because I love what I do.
I must give you my philosophy. The best time of a normal person’s life is spent on their work. From 20 to 65 you are healthy, strong, young and you can do everything. But if you don’t enjoy what you are doing then you are existing, not living. I see people who are ten years younger than me and they look like a robot.
If I got a second chance to live again, I would work really hard from 20 to 60. Then I’d take a little bit of a break to do any silly thing. Travel or whatever you want to do.
But I’d come back to work until I pass away.
Everybody says “when I retire, I’ll go around the world.”
Who wrote it?
Last month I heard that in Sydney 400 people on a cruise got gastro. If you’re young, maybe you vomit or diarrhoea but you won’t need to go to the hospital. It’s because the organs are old and eroding.
Another lady on a cruise took a wrong step and broke her hip. If you’re young, you can step but you won’t break anything. It’s because the bones are strong.
Everybody dreams of retiring.
Doing this keeps my body strong. I don’t need to rush myself.
I’ll never retire.
As the Greek philosophers say, “healthy mind healthy body.”
“Healthy body healthy mind.”
The one helps the other.
I also tell people that there are a couple of things you can’t buy.
1) Your health 2) your time 3) your reputation and 4) your happiness.
You think, at 76 years old, I could afford to pay rent in Windsor?
I’m lucky but you have to help your luck. My father bought this building forty years ago. But, I could sell it and take an expensive holiday, buy an expensive car.
Even my accountant says, “Emmanuel, I want to explain. You’re wrong. You are stupid to work. If you rented the building today, you could earn more than double what you’re making and you wouldn’t have to work!”
I have to be rude.
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to exist. I want to live,” I say to him.
I get up in the morning and represent myself. I clean myself. I’ve never taken one cent from the government and I pay high tax.
If I retire, I would go to the Greek club and play cards. I would go around and say “oh, my back. Oh my knee.” What sort of life is that? It’s boring.
Here, young people come in and I do things that nobody else can do.
We could talk all day.
Have a look at all the articles that have been written about me. This one, they took photos of me to advertise the street and called me ‘The Tailor of Chapel St.’
But, no address, no telephone number.
It doesn’t matter.
Where do you see vests like the one I’m wearing?
My customers say, “turn the clock.”
“I wish,” I say.
But I haven’t got the time.
Written by Aron Lewin