Calgary Herald

Tai­lor-made for mo­tor­cy­cle lovers

Shop gives beaten up rac­ing leathers care they need

- GINA TEEL CAL­GARY HER­ALD

Sam Go­bran doesn’t ex­actly suit the im­age many peo­ple have of a pro­fes­sional tai­lor, even though he’s been ply­ing his trade for 27 years. This is be­cause in ad­di­tion to the suits, skirts and blouses that he faith­fully al­ters, mends or makes to mea­sure at APlus Tai­lor Shop Ltd., he’s also will­ing to try his hand at mak­ing, well, just about any­thing.

“Any­thing that has a stitch or thread in it, I’ll make it,” he said.

On this par­tic­u­lar day, Go­bran is pon­der­ing the best way to at­tach a pair of pointy cow horns to ei­ther side of a mo­tor­cy­cle skull cap that he’s just fin­ished cov­er­ing in sym­met­ri­cal pieces of long haired, spot­ted cowhide.

The cap is for a client, Go­bran said, ex­plain­ing that he never did learn how to ride a mo­tor­cy­cle.

But the fancy biker cap isn’t the only mo­tor­cy­cle-re­lated busi­ness to come Go­bran’s way. He cus­tom makes rac­ing leathers and re­pairs and restyles them, too. Made-tomea­sure leather chaps are also on of­fer.

Mo­tor­cy­cle-re­lated gar­ment work com­prises about 80 per cent of the busi­ness to­day, but that wasn’t al­ways the case at the tiny tai­lor shop that’s been a fix­ture in Lower Mount Royal for nearly 30 years.

Go­bran said it all started when a cus­tomer as­so­ci­ated with Race City Speed­way came in ask­ing if he could re­pair his rac­ing leathers.

The cus­tomer told Go­bran if he did a good job, he’d send over other clients from the speed­way. It wasn’t long be­fore the cus­tomers were lin­ing up at the door, he said, with beaten up rac­ing leathers in hand.

“I did one af­ter an­other af­ter an­other, and was then in­tro­duced to more peo­ple and from there, there were more and more leather chaps and jack­ets,” he said.

Clint McBain was one of his first clients, Go­bran said, not­ing the racer prefers more ex­pen­sive kan­ga­roo leather, which is thicker and heav­ier than cowhide but more light­weight.

Mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing leathers are the bulk of the busi­ness, but wed­ding gowns and bridal dresses — ei­ther al­ter­ations to or made to mea­sure from a pat­tern — make up a good chunk as well.

But it’s re­ally any­thing goes, from rent­ing tuxe­dos and mak­ing women’s suits to turn­ing old fur coats into toss cush­ions and cre­at­ing Star Wars cos­tumes for fans of the sci-fi flicks.

Go­bran got his start as a tai­lor in Cal­gary 1981, af­ter leav­ing a ca­reer as a tool and dye maker in On­tario.

Al­though he comes from a fam­ily of tai­lors, Go­bran said he ini­tially thought he wasn’t cut out for that line of work, and in­stead be­came a tool and dye maker.

He en­joyed the work, but not the lay­offs, and in 1981 came to Cal­gary at the urg­ing of an un­cle here who was work­ing as a tai­lor at Tip Top Tai­lors at Sun­ridge Mall.

To Go­bran’s sur­prise, he dis­cov­ered he liked work­ing as a tai­lor far bet­ter than toil­ing in a fac­tory — even though he was earn­ing about $2 less an hour.

“When I came here, and worked for Tip Top Tai­lors, ev­ery­body started call­ing me sir,” he said.

Go­bran learned all the ba­sics from his un­cle and flour­ished un­der his tute­lage.

Go­bran even­tu­ally left Tip Top and went to Ge­orge Richards, and spent sev­eral months jump­ing from store to store pick­ing up more ex­pe­ri­ence along the way.

In 1983 he landed at a gar­ment busi­ness, work­ing pri­mar­ily with leather.

He did mostly al­ter­ations on leather jack­ets, and spent a lot of time ex­per­i­ment­ing with the ma­te­rial un­til he mas­tered work­ing with it.

From there, it was off to The Leather Ranch, do­ing al­ter­ations and cus­tom sizes in pants, chaps, G-strings, and bathing suits out of wash­able leather.

“At the Leather Ranch, ac­tu­ally I learned a lot. We used to do lots and lots of fash­ion shows on 8th Av­enue and I used to work on fur coats, and I made a few from scratch,” he said.

From the Leather Ranch, Go­bran went to Jack Fraser Men’s Wear, and man­aged their al­ter­ation work, he said.

He then went to Moore’s the Suit Peo­ple in 1988, and was made head tai­lor.

“That’s the first time I had tai­lors un­der me,” he said.

From there, he went out on his own, and with the help of a friend who hap­pened to be a com­mer­cial realtor, even­tu­ally found an ex­ist­ing tai­lor shop that was up for sale.

He wound up not buy­ing the busi­ness but did take over the lease in 1989 when it ex­pired, and car­ried on with the tai­lor shop when the pre­vi­ous owner packed up and re­tired.

Go­bran kept the es­tab­lished phone num­ber but changed the shop’s name to A Plus.

“I was go­ing to call it ei­ther Waist End Tai­lors or Mas­ter Tai­lor, but Mas­ter Tai­lor was taken, and then I de­cided to go with some­thing I didn’t get in school,” he said.

He made $3 on his first day of busi­ness, and re­called think­ing he’d made a big mis­take.

That’s no longer the case, as he’s come to re­al­ize noth­ing beats be­ing your own boss.

Help­ing him out in the shop is his wife, Mar­ion Go­bran, and a vol­un­teer who works in ex­change for be­ing taught the se­crets of the tai­lor trade.

“I learned to mea­sure seven times, cut once,” Go­bran said.

 ?? Gavin Young, Cal­gary Her­ald ?? “Any­thing that has a stitch or thread in it, I’ll make it,” says Sam Go­bran of A Plus Tai­lor Shop.
Gavin Young, Cal­gary Her­ald “Any­thing that has a stitch or thread in it, I’ll make it,” says Sam Go­bran of A Plus Tai­lor Shop.

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