You might miss Henryk’s Tailoring, tucked in between the big shops of Riverside Drive in Downtown Spokane, but stop in and you’ll meet a man and have an experience you will never forget.
He’s a man that lives life in a way unlike anyone else in Spokane. He delivers great customer service and also owns a shop that seems to be a world away from the street it sits on.
Henryk Zowal says that his specialty is alterations, for both "ladies and gentlemen," as his advertisement in the phone book says.
However, it might just be that his specialty is his ability to personalize his customers’ orders, to put the time and the effort into his work that people are not able to find any more. This also might be what keeps them coming back time and time again.
"He does good work," says the Rev. Albin Fogelquist, of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, a regular customer of Henryk’s. But it’s not just that, says Fogelquist, "he personalizes it, and he knows his customers."
Fogelquist says he keeps coming back, and has been for over seven years, even though it’s hard to find parking near Henryk’s shop.
"Henryk is a great tailor. I’ve been there and so have a few of my friends," says Matt Smith, a Spokane resident and another customer of Henryk’s.
Zowal enjoys his customers as much as they enjoy him. He builds relationships with them.
He likes to talk with other businessmen. He feels that by owning his own business, other people, such as doctors, do not look down on him, but look at him as an equal.
Zowal says that any time you have your own business, you have to put in long hours and make sacrifices, but he takes it a step further.
His business card states that he is open Monday through Saturday. However, he often works Sundays because his hours depend on the customer. He is there many nights until late hours, and even if he heads home, he’ll reopen if someone calls and is in need of a tailor at 9:30 p.m.
Henryk has no time for organization. His shop is clean, though he has jobs, tools, thread, scissors, and such lying about, but they do not go unused for more than a day.
He calls it a mess; it is more like work in progress.
When you step out of busy downtown Spokane, and Riverside Drive, you step into a slower, more relaxed pace of life in Henryk’s shop. You step back in time.
Threads in all the colors of the rainbow line the walls of Henryk’s shop, along with fabric and belts and more.
He does not have the newest of machines, but he does, however, have ones that he trusts, older ones that have stood the test of time.
He uses old Singers, the metal kind that are built into the table, lacquered in green and black. A few machines have given out, but they are still hanging around, adding to the flavor of Henryk’s shop.
Henryk does not have the money for newer machines. The money goes to provide for his family first.
Zowal has a wife and two sons, 11, and 13. Henryk displays a calendar in his shop, with a picture drawn by one of his sons.
Henryk had on a pair of jeans with a few holes, and he didn’t mind. He says "I’m a simple guy." He plans to pay his bills, provide for his kids’ future, and then worry about himself later.
Henryk looks up to Mother Theresa. He says he admires the way she came from a rich background and lifestyle, yet "gave up everything" to serve the "poorest of the poor," says Zowal. The people no one else wanted anything to do with.
Henryk has seen the poorest of the poor, he has seen many people like this in his home country of Poland, and has not forgotten these people or where he came from, even though he now owns his own business in America.
Henryk was born in Poland in 1957. He attended grade school until he was 15. Following grade school, he went on to tailoring school, as boys of that age in Poland must choose a trade to study.
He spent time learning the trade in Poland until he left his country, briefly staying in Germany, to pursue a dream in America in 1983, where he would be able to learn more, or "put more in your head," as he put it.
He thought he would be able to make a better living here but he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.
Henryk says, speaking with a still-prominent Eastern European accent, "Young peoples doesn’t know what they want to be."
Having matured, he now believes that he is able to see things more clearly. He sees that it "is a good job, being able to stay indoors, with a heater in the winter and air conditioning in the summer."
He does not, however, recommend tailoring, especially for anyone in this country, saying that you have to work very hard here to earn any money as a tailor.
He says the clothes are so cheap here that people would rather just go and buy another one, before paying a tailor to get it fixed.
It’s like buying a new car, he says. "You can go out and buy a car for $7,000 in this
country," and can have one by the time you are 16.
In Poland "many people save their whole lifetime to get their first car." His father got his first car when he was 58 years old.
Henryk learned tailoring only after his father was unable to find a teacher to train his son as a baker or a mechanic.
He also believed the U.S. would give his children a chance to have a better life.
It is this selfless attitude that is most fascinating about Henryk. A simple man providing great tailoring, great customer service, and a little more.