Knowing Thy Neighbor: Quang Nguyen

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  • | 10:27 a.m. July 17, 2014
WOT Quang sewing-JUMBO
WOT Quang sewing-JUMBO
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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WOT Quang sewing

The Golden Needle Tailor shop’s owner is a 49-year-old Vietnam-born tailor who began sewing at age 15 to help his seamstress mother bring in more money to help support the family. His father was a worker in the local public school system.

“We were very poor. I was the number seven child in a family of 10 other brothers and sisters,” Quang Nguyen told The West Orange Times.

The teenager began with simple sewing tasks in what was to become his lifelong profession as a tailor.

“I started with sewing on buttons and hand-stitching hems. I went to school during the day and helped my mother with the sewing work at night and on weekends.”

Nguyen briefly referred to the traumatic times of his early life in the midst of the Vietnam War. American troops had arrived in South Vietnam several years before his birth in 1965. When he was 8 years old, the North Vietnamese attacked the South and after several years of fighting took it over.

“When I was 10 years old, our city of Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese forces in April 1975. Their take-over took two years from when the last of America’s troops left in 1973. The new government renamed the capital Ho Chin Minh City. Throughout it all, my family worked to keep all of us safe and our business going.”

Nguyen graduated from Phunhuan High School in Ho Chin Minh City (Saigon) in 1983.

In this same year he completed high school, one of his sisters came to America. She now has her own alterations shop in Orlando. She eventually was able to sponsor his coming here to Central Florida.

“My family was too poor for me to go to college or university,” he said in his accented English.

He began specifically studying English after high school, when he was able to sew full time during the day and go to school at night to learn this second language.

“My mother and all of us helping her would cut 100 patterns each day. We laid down 25 layers of material at a time. With an electric cutter, I cut the pile of 25 layers of material to make enough patterns each day to make 100 sports shirts and pants. We sewed all of these patterns by the end of the day into completely finished clothing items. The next day, we started the process over again,” Nguyen said.

The Nguyen family sold their sewing work to wholesale clothing distributors.

While continuing to live with his parents, and helping to generate money for the family business, Nguyen met his future wife.

“We met while she was in college and I was in night school,” Nguyen said.

“She was from a small family of only two daughters. Her parents were able to afford to send her to Economy University as a full-time student. She graduated in 1997.”

They married in 1998. His bride, who was a full-time homemaker, did not sew, and he “worked about 60 hours a week.”

The young couple had a daughter, Anh, who was born in 2000. By this time, he was a 35-year-old father and a working professional tailor of 20 years. He continued to study English and focused even more on his goal to come to America.

Nguyen finally made it to America in 2004 with the help of his sister, who lived in Orlando and sponsored the family. The sister had come two decades earlier.

“We struggled. We lived in my sister’s home. Our marriage came apart. We divorced in 2005. My daughter stayed with me.”

Nguyen continued to improve his English by going to night classes at Dr. Phillips High School. I took my 3-year-old daughter with me to class,” he said.

As he sewed and went to school, he and his young daughter lived in a mobile home.

“I spent a lot of time driving around looking for a location for my own business. Then, I saw this strip mall building. It was new. Only four businesses had moved into the building at the time. A ‘for rent’ sign indicated spaces of various sizes were still available. The sign had a phone number that I called.”

He toured the offices and selected the rental space in which he now works.

“A friend with better English helped me negotiate the lease. After I had the space, I began working on getting the area ready for my machines, a dressing room and a front office area. I did the interior work myself.”

In November 2007, Nguyen opened his tailor shop in Ocoee on Colonial Drive across from Health Central Hospital and Wal-Mart.

He named his shop The Golden Needle in honor of his two sisters “who live and have sewing businesses in Baton Rouge, La. Each of them has Golden Needle in the name of their shops.”

Nguyen owns eight machines to help him handle the many types of alterations he does.

“I have three straight stitching sewing machines, and I have four serger machines. An overlock serger allows me to sew the edges of one or two cloth pieces when hemming. It makes finishing seams go more quickly. It prevents raveling when material is cut. I also have two blind stitching machines,” Nguyen explained.

His shop offers an extensive array of sewing services.

“I do alterations on dresses, suits, shirts, trousers, formal gowns, wedding dresses, sports clothes and other items — like draperies — that people have brought to me. I do not create outfits from patterns. I just alter what is already made.”

He also offers dry cleaning. For example, he charges $4 for a linen shirt, $2 for cotton/polyester shirts and $4 for pants of any fabric.

Nguyen remarried in 2013 to second wife Hanna and is “happy to be here in this area.”

Quang Nguyen summarized his feelings about living in western Orlando: “I have a lot of wonderful customers. I hope to continue to expand and grow my business and to enjoy living here in Ocoee with my family for many many years to come, because Ocoee is becoming more beautiful each year with the decisions to improve our city.”


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