Fashion trends come and go, but a perfectly-tailored outfit is always in style. Wheeling seamstress and tailor Martha Leos knows this better than anyone. She’s spent her 40-year career working inside many of the iconic department stores that many longtime Wheeling residents remember fondly. Not only has she witnessed changing clothing styles throughout her career, but she’s also seen the rise, decline, and revival of businesses in Wheeling.
Martha’s story begins on the island of Chios in Greece in 1974. She was adopted at the age of 23 by her uncle to travel with him to the United States. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Martha. She’s called Wheeling home ever since.
After attending Mt. DeChantal to learn how to speak English, she landed her first job at Tops for Men in Wheeling. After four years, she went on to work at Stone & Thomas Department Store for 13 years.
While working at Stone & Thomas, she specialized in women’s clothing alterations. When the popular department store relocated in 1982, she was thankful to continue using her talents at nearby Kaufman’s. She would work there for another 13 years. During that time, tailoring services were so in-demand that she would often lend a hand at Crone’s Clothiers during their busy seasons.
Like many smaller cities across the country, the convenience and popularity of mall shopping changed the landscape of retail shopping in downtown areas, which meant another career shift for Martha. She was instrumental in encouraging Men’s Wearhouse in St. Clairsville, OH to expand their services and was eventually hired by them as a full-time tailor, where she has worked ever since.
Today, Martha still works with customers at Men’s Wearhouse who have followed her throughout her career. After decades in the apparel industry, she’s proud perfectionist who isn’t satisfied until every customer leaves looking their best.
While downtown Wheeling looks a lot different now than when she began her career, she says that she’s happy to see jobs coming back to Wheeling and hopeful for the growth of the city and the path it’s taking for the future. In fact, when Martha isn’t tailoring suits, she owns and manages an apartment building in her North Wheeling neighborhood. Through this, she is reinvesting in the city she loves.
(Interview filmed in Nov. 2019)