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M's Tailor owner Maneewan Lee puts the finishing touches on a traditional Thai garment. Lee has studied the art of sewing since she was a child. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)

New Cottage Grove tailor shop boasts 15 years of experience

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The small, roughly 300-square-foot space in East St. Paul's Hmong Village shopping center just didn't fit the growing clientele at M's Tailor shop.

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Owner and longtime seamstress Maneewan Lee, who operated out of the busy neighborhood store for three years, wanted something with more parking, less vehicle traffic and in an area that did not already have what she could offer.

With Cottage Grove vacant of a tailor shop, Maneewan and her husband, King, recently relocated the business into the former 1,100-square-foot Zephyr Cleaners next to Target on East Point Douglas Road and immediately saw new clients seeking their service.

"We're happy to have their family business join us," Economic Development Director Danette Parr said in an interview. "They fill a need in the community and we're excited about having that need met."

Growing up in Thailand, Maneewan said she was destined to work with clothing. Translated into English, Maneewan said her name literally means beautiful clothing. Following in the footsteps of her mother, also a seamstress, Maneewan learned the art of sewing at a young age.

"By the time I was 5 years old I knew how to sew," she said.

Throughout her childhood, she made dresses, shirts, pants and just about any item family, friends and customers needed. When she was 18, she finished her traditional studies and entered into what she called seamstress school. The two-year schooling allowed her to perfect her hand-eye coordination and boost her already sharp creative skills.

She met her husband, King, in 1994 when he, a native of Laos, was visiting his cousin.

"My cousin had married her sister so I knew who (Maneewan) was, but I had never met her," he explained.

King, who immigrated to the United States in 1976, eventually married Maneewan and, after several years of paperwork, she followed in 2000. The two lived briefly in Des Moines before venturing north to the Twin Cities, where King's family was located.

"Being near family was a big reason why we moved here," he said.

Opening up M's Tailor in 2010 in the busy Hmong Village neighborhood in St. Paul, Maneewan said she quickly built a loyal clientele and quickly outgrew her space. Three years spent in a busy neighborhood with too much traffic had worn out its welcome, she said. Earlier this year, the couple and their two children, Theodore, 2, and Seraphina, 1, sought out communities to not only live in but relocate their business to. They quickly found that nearly each city they looked at had a tailoring business. Except Cottage Grove.

"We love Cottage Grove and the fact that it's near so many other communities that could use (Maneewan's) services," King said, who is a court interpreter for Ramsey and Hennepin counties.

The couple quietly opened M's Tailor two weeks ago in the former Zephyr Cleaners space, an upgrade that gives the business more space and ample parking, King said.

"With Target being next door, everybody has to cross in front of us to get there," Maneewan said, adding the exposure has garnered more out of town clients. "I have some people now coming from Woodbury. My people (from East St. Paul) have followed me here, too. They tell me that I'm their only seamstress."

As the only tailor in the shop, Maneewan said she stays busy but has been able to fulfill every tailoring request. From zipper replacement and hemming to coat repairs and tapering of any garment, Maneewan said she can do it all.

"We are very excited to be here in Cottage Grove and look forward to serving this community," she added.

Walk-ins and appointments are accepted, and the business is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. A ribbon cutting was Thursday, Sept. 26.

M's Tailor is located at 8711 East Point Douglas Road. For more information, call the shop at 651-494-2043.

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Emily Buss
Emily Buss joined the South Washington County Bulletin in February 2013. She covers local government in Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park and Newport, along with other general assignment reporting. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
(651) 459-4629
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