Pablo Vargas of the Stanton Tailor Shop, Part I

Posted on: April 8th, 2010 at 6:13 am by

We are excited to present this two-part series on Pablo Vargas, proprietor of the Stanton Tailor Shop.  Written by Steven Gibaldi.

On summer nights you may have walked by the Stanton Tailor Shop and heard meringue playing from the open door. Or maybe on a freezing cold winter afternoon you saw a line snaking out the door and peered in to see Pablo Vargas, a tall, striking Dominican man, giving a fitting with pins in his mouth. The small corner shop with sky blue walls, three minuscule dressing rooms and people waiting to get inside is the spot where everyone brings their sample sale clothes or Orchard Street finds to be fitted.

Pablo greets customers from the gentrified LES and those from the early days – when he first started at the shop in the 1980s when it was situated amongst the remaining remnants of the Schmata Trade, Jewish garment stores that dotted the LES. With his big welcoming smile and serious eyes, he’s seen a lot of changes. In the shop’s early days, when the LES was a no man’s land, as evening approached and the sun began to position itself below the sixth floor walk up tenements, Pablo Vargas would hurry to remove the thimble from his thumb and pull down the metal gate of his tiny business. He knew too well that to remain open when night fell meant that his humble shop could attract the attention of some of the menacing characters of the Lower East Side.

There were junkies, and local crack dealers who hid in the alleys or hung around on tenement stoops. That was then, when what some refer to today as “Hell Square” was exactly that, but for different reasons. Hell now means loud, boisterous, fashionable drunks carousing around Stanton, Ludlow, Rivington and Orchard wearing fitted designer hoodies and tight narrow jeans.

Hell used to mean shady characters prowling the streets in the opposite garb; extra large hoodies and baggy jeans. The one constant is the gate. Only now, the gate at Pablo’s Stanton Tailor Shop comes down at night, but only half way. It comes down not to deter drug dealers but to give his tailors a bit of relief from the relentless fittings and alterations that reflect the sartorial demands of the new denizens of today’s Lower East Side.

It’s been almost 30 years since Pablo Vargas arrived from the Dominican Republic and landed a job at the Stanton Tailor Shop, except then it was known as the Olympic.  And, boy, the times have changed!


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