Fifteen years ago, a young man from Jamaica came to Baltimore to fulfill a childhood dream — to help people be more fashionable.
In April, that dream was shaken to the core.
At around 5:30 p.m. on April 27, Clifton “Nicky” Hutchinson was behind the counter at his tailoring business, Nicky’s Tailoring, on Eutaw Street when 10 men wearing ski masks broke into his shop through the front window and smashed up his shop.
“It was so many of them. I just stood there and watched them trash my place,” said Hutchinson.
The men destroyed display cases, stole ties and fabrics, many of which were for suits for prom season.
But that wasn’t enough to make Hutchinson put away his sewing machine.
“It’s about being dedicated to what I do,” he said.
In a neighborhood where many business are closed or boarded up, Nicky’s Tailoring has suited up and gone back work since the civil unrest that stemmed from the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died from injuries sustained in police custody.
Growing up in Jamaica, Hutchinson went to a tailor for his clothes and fashioned doing it for a living one day.
“I always liked to dress up,” he said. “I learned because I wanted to make my own clothes.”
After high school, he learned to make pants and brought that skill to New York in 1990, where he worked at a dry cleaner’s and sewed on the side. In 1998, he moved to Baltimore and opened a shop on Saratoga Street before moving to his current location in 2000.
Thirty years into his tailoring career, Hutchinson still comes to work dressed to the nines.
“People see me on the street and they think I’m a lawyer,” he said with a smile.
In his 17 years of business in Baltimore, Hutchinson never had an incident until this year. He has always had an alarm system in his shop but that didn’t save him in April. Since then, he has installed security cameras that can be monitored remotely.
The shop sustained around $15,000 in damage, which was paid for through liability insurance, Hutchison said.
He also had to get a new front window, replace the display cases, redo the flooring and replace a stolen iPad.
Hutchinson was able to identify one of the men who broke into his store to the State’s Attorney’s office. He believes the man was charged but has not followed up on the case.
The shop was boarded up for three weeks, right in the middle of prom season, his busiest time of year. But Hutchinson kept working.
After losing many prom suits, Hutchinson got new fabric and started from scratch. Each suit takes between 24 to 36 hours to make.
While Hutchinson said he didn’t want to name-drop, he said he has a large, loyal customer base. According to his website, that list features some influential figures from Baltimore, including pastor and congressional candidate Jamal Bryant.
Hutchinson’s client based spans beyond city limits, past the Maryland border in many cases. For several years, Hutchinson was a vendor at an annual conference for State Farm agent, and he landed clients from Chicago, California, North Carolina and even from as far away as Alaska.
“Places where I’ve never even been,” he said.
Unlike some of the nearly 400 businesses that reported damage after the April riots, Nicky’s Tailoring has gotten stronger since the damage. After the riots, Hutchinson was featured in a local CBS news report, which drew many Baltimore clients to his shop, he said.
Until recently, the majority of Hutchinson’s clients were from the Washington, D.C., metro area. Some of his best clients even asked him to relocate to the nation’s capital, but he said he never even considered it.
“I want to put Baltimore on the map as far as tailoring is concerned. When someone asks for a tailor, I want to be that guy.”