GALESBURG (AP) — It's a small joy in life — zipping up a dress or pulling up a pair of pants with a simultaneous sigh of relief, knowing the clothing not only looks good, but also fits comfortably.
Bringing that simple pleasure to the community in a more official capacity is what drove Galesburg man Gary Mustain in his quest to open a downtown alterations shop.
A Needle Pulling Thread, located at 109 S. Cherry St., is open for business, despite the shop's still-bare walls.
"You need a space and a sewing machine and plenty of lights .," Mustain said. "And you've got to have an ironing board and a cutting board . and mirrors for the customers to see themselves.
"If you've got that and sewing supplies, you're set — anything else that comes is just extra."
The extras will come eventually, but for now, Mustain is focused on doing what he's loved to do since he was kid.
"I have been sewing since I was about 12 years old," Mustain said. "I started with costume work."
With a well-known background in all facets of theater, sewing and tailoring has been a constant passion of Mustain's throughout it all.
Back in 1985, he worked out of his own home doing alterations for people in the community. Owning a shop in the heart of downtown Galesburg, however, has always been Mustain's dream.
"The thing for me was, to rent a whole space was expensive," he said. "I thought, how many pairs of pants do I have to hem to pay that month's rent?"
Luckily for Mustain, good friend and longtime colleague Doug Alderman had plans that just happened to work for both of them.
Alderman is in the process of opening Railway Picture Studios, a video production business, and when it came time to search for a space, he brought along his trusted adviser of a friend, Mustain.
"It wasn't until after I decided to take this space that he approached me about subletting," Alderman said. "I thought to myself, 'Yeah, there's definitely enough room.'
"I think his business is perfectly suited for this community."
While tasking himself with fixing the rips and tears burdening the people of Galesburg, Mustain will be helping himself as well.
Aside from its natural association with theater, sewing has always had a therapeutic effect on him.
"It helps relieve stress," he said. "Plus, there's a great sense of accomplishment when you've taken something and either reconstructed it or made it fit somebody better."
Over the years of occasionally helping a friend or neighbor with alterations, Mustain said it never ceases to surprise him to find out how little many people know about tailoring. A popped button or a broken zipper for some may mean it's time to toss that clothing item in the trash, but Mustain isn't one to give up that easily.
"They just think they're done for, but they're not," he said, impassioned. "It can always be fixed. I'm a firm believer that it can always be fixed.
"I've always said, I can make anything fit anybody — you just have to know what to do, you have to have an imagination, and you have to know how clothes are made and how to add or make them better."
And because Mustain plans to continue acting between his time at the shop, he's brought on some extra help.
Zac Grimm, 15, is involved in the theater program at Galesburg High School. Having met Mustain through theater, he jumped at the chance to learn about this leg of the entertainment field.
"Plus, if you can take something that's already made, and make it better for someone, I just think that sounds like fun," Grimm said.
As the high school freshman apprentice continues to learn, Mustain said there's no doubt that Grimm will be a great help in the shop.