Military Tailor Shop closes after owner passes away

Published 2:55 pm Saturday, July 29, 2017

Military Tailor Shop has been located in a small building in Hogan Alley for as long as some people can remember in Selma, but the business has decided to close its door after the passing of its owner.

The shop was originally owned by Lawrence Lightning, but Juanita Mason took over in 1984 after his retirement. Mason passed on July 20 after working there for more than 50 years. Funeral services were held July 23.

“It is with deep regret that Military Tailors announces that it has closed,” read a letter from the business. “The closure is due to the brief illness and passing of the owner, Ms. Juanita Mason.”

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Mason started working there in 1958 at just 18 years old. Her sister, Rose Banks, started working there in 1974 and has worked there ever since. They both tailored clothes.

Now days, clothes are made to fit and to be worn right off of the rack, but they were not always made that way.

“Back then clothes were more simple because they were made out of more simple material, but now they’re real complicated because they have so many new types of materials and it’s more complicated to work with,” Banks said.

People used to buy their clothes at a department store like Lilienthal’s and had them tailored to fit.

“Anything that had to be done to clothes, we did it,” Banks said. “We resized them and did major alterations.”

Jay Davis, a Selma native whose father worked at Lilienthal’s Department Store for 17 years as a salesman, can remember taking clothes over to the shop as a young boy.

“I recall vividly walking into Lighting’s shop after leaving the comfort of air-conditioning at Lilienthal’s, it feeling like an inferno. Not only did the shop not have air conditioning, there was a boiler fed steam press used to press clothes that had been altered,” Davis recalled. “It always amazed me how Lightning, Juanita and others could work the entire day like that. But I don’t recall anyone ever complaining. They were genially happy doing what they did.”

Davis said he would go to the shop on an hourly basis to take clothes for alterations or pick clothes up that had already been altered.

“This was done no less than hourly. That should give you an idea of the volume that was done at Lilienthal’s and at Military Tailors,” Davis said.

Davis also recalled being invited to Lightning’s home in east Selma and how business must have been good.

Banks said she enjoyed the many years she spent tailoring clothes in the tiny shop alongside Lightning and Mason.

“I truly enjoyed it. I wanted everything to come out perfect. Tailoring was a natural gift for both Juanita and I,” she said. “We had a good clientele, and they seemed to appreciate what we did for them. Our goal in life was to please our customers. We didn’t want any of the to leave out dissatisfied.”

Banks said the shop appreciates all of its customers over the year and thanked them for their patronage.