Tailor-made for motorcycle lovers
Shop gives beaten up racing leathers care they need
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.