Charles Katsoulakos, a beloved tailor in Marblehead for 55 years, passed away on Jan. 15, one month after retiring. He was 96 years old.
Katsoulakos was reluctant to retire. There was only one thing he was looking forward to. “I have a chair in the trunk of my car and I will go to Devereux Beach and sit there,” he said.
In an interview with the Marblehead Current right before he reitred, Katsoulakos said he had served “hundreds and hundreds” of custmers over the decades. He saw dramatic swings in fashion, but never had a favorite style.
“For me, it doesn’t make a difference. I’ll narrow the legs or shorten the hemline to modernize.” He enjoyed working on prom and wedding dresses the most.
“Those beautiful dresses, I love seeing them,” he said. Many of his customers sent him photos of themselves wearing the outfits he altered.
One day last fall, a woman came in to pick up a jacket Katsoulakos had repaired.
“It’s my son’s jacket,” she said to him. “He doesn’t even wear it anymore, but I want it to last forever.” She left with a smile on her face.
Katsoulakos grew up in Athens, Greece, and spoke with a thick accent. He left school when he was 14. “The Germans and Italians occupied the city, and the schools closed.”
He went to work with his father, who was also a tailor. But by the time he was 30, there wasn’t enough work in the family’s shop to support them both.
“So I came to New York City with $400 in my pocket. But I didn’t know the language and I didn’t like it there. I had a friend who owned a Greek restaurant in Malden and so I arrived at his door with my suitcase.”
Katsoulakos met his wife, Ellen, at the restaurant. “She made her own dresses and was voted best dressed at her high school,” he boasted.
Katsoulakos got a job at a Malden department store, but wanted to work for himself so started taking tailoring work from the Vinnin Square clothing store, Judd’s.
“I had a small rack at home where I kept the clothes, but it collapsed the first week,” because he had so much work.
Katsoulakos decided to open his own shop – first next to National Grand Bank and then, a few years later, down the street at 129 Pleasant. He and Ellen worked there together until she passed away about 20 years ago.
When customers walked into his shop they’d see see five old sewing machines, including Katsoulakos’ favorite — an old Singer that he had since he opened.
“Even about sewing machines I have memories,” he laughed, affectionately patting the Singer. There were clothes hanging on racks and dusty old family photos on the wall.
Katsoulakos had a message for all his customers. “I want to thank the people of Marblehead. They’ve kept me busy all the time.”
Katsoulakos leaves behind his son Michael Katsoulakos of Marblehead and daughter Cathy Rossi and her partner John K. Barry of Tewksbury; grandchildren Stephanie Marie DiRusso and her husband Jonathan of Woburn, and Alexander Katsoulakos and his wife Samantha of Kingston, New Hampshire; great-grandchildren Jonathan David “JD” and Gianna DiRusso and Nathan Katsoulakos; and many nieces and nephews in the U.S. and Greece.
Service information: The family will receive friends from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, at Eustis & Cornell of Marblehead, 142 Elm St., followed by a funeral service at noon at St. Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church in Peabody. Burial will be at Waterside Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations in Katsoulakos’ memory may be made to the Marblehead Animal Shelter or the Edith Dodge Fund.
Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.