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Gilbert Tailor and Tux

There were many Roseland businesses that were so much more than a place to get a needed service performed. Many of the businesses served as a place to meet friends. There was a good deal of word of mouth advertising that carried a business through hard times. There was also good word of mouth about where a high school kid might be able to get a good job.

Among those businesses that come to mind are Dal Santo’s, Pullman Wine & Liquors Italian Cheese, Traverso’s and Gilbert’s. When I put out an e-mail request for information about Gilbert’s, I received a number of responses. All of them fondly remembered the generous and kind family spirit that they not only encountered but became part of during their time at Gilbert’s. It wasn’t only the kids that had an opportunity to add to their Roseland experience by knowing the Gilberts, I also heard from a few adults that dealt with them and knew them.

Gilbert Tailor and Tux had a long history in Roseland beginning back in 1939 when Dominic Gilbert took over a neglected building that housed a children’s clothing store at 351 E. 115th St. Gilbert spent many years learning his craft at The House of Kuppenheimer, and then becoming an important part of the tailoring team at Raymond Levine. However, he didn’t leave Kuppenheimer’s totally behind: that is where Dominic met the love of his life, Bernice, who was a seamstress.

Bernice Saugargis’ family had emigrated from Lithuania and lived in Bridgeport, where her father worked at the stockyards. Bernice recently celebrated her 91st birthday and is now living at St. James Manor, 1251 E. Richton Road, in Crete, IL 60417. Dominic and Bernice were married for 46 years. Dominic passed away in 1985. There’s no two ways about it: you know Bernice would love to receive a card with a simple hello and a remembrance of your experience at Gilbert’s.

Bernice told me that after Dominic began his successful business, they got married and it worked out great for them that there was an apartment located on the second floor as it became their home. Throughout the years that they operated the business, Dominic remodeled the building into a very beautiful home. Gilbert Tailor and Tux did very well from the beginning. As a matter of fact, he had so many customers coming in for alterations that Raymond Levine came to see him. It turns out that many of Dominic’s customers had gotten their suits at Raymond Levine Men’s Clothing but brought their purchases to Gilbert Tailor and Tux for alterations.

Mr. Levine made Dominic an offer that he didn’t think he could refuse: He would pay Dominic for all his equipment if he would come back to work for him. Dominic thought it over and gave Raymond his answer: “No.” He told him he had a lease and wouldn’t break it and so he continued to be the boss of his own successful business.

Earlier, I mentioned the kids that worked and experienced life at Gilbert Tailor and Tux: kids like Mike ‘Junior’ Gonzalez, who began as a youngster doing simple errands and ended up working there while attending high school. Another stellar employee was Sister Joellen (Eleanor) Sbrissa and her sister Francine, both of whom worked with Junior Gonzalez and Ron Badali. Junior told me of an incident where one of the kids decided to try an experiment with the cleaning fluid. Unfortunately, the other part of the experiment involved a match. As soon as they touched the match to the fluid, the flame shot straight to the ceiling. That was the last time that there was any experimenting in the backroom.

Junior mentioned that Dominic had two passions: Perfecto Garcia Cigars and big cars. It was a treat for Dominic to spend $20 on a box of his favorite cigars. Today that same box of 25 sells for up to $80. Junior vividly recalls the cars because, as he grew up, it was his job to wash them. According to Bernice, in those days when you hit 11,000 miles on a car, it was time for a new one. Dominic began with an Oldsmobile, shifted to a Buick and then geared up to Chryslers.

Roy and Billie Pesavento remember Dominic coming into Pesavento’s Restaurant for a quick lunch throughout the week so that he could return ASAP to the store. Gilbert’s always closed early on Saturdays so that Dominic and Bernice could head up to Michigan and their house on the lake near Dowagiac to relax. It was a quick trip of less than two hours but afforded them time to recharge their batteries.

Dominic was a member of many organizations such as the Order Sons of Italy and the Moose Lodge. But he was never happier than when Friday rolled around and he went to the Rose Bowl. Gilbert Tailor and Tux always sponsored a bowling team in both the St. Anthony Holy Name Bowling League and the Women’s Auxiliary League. There were a number of years where Dominic’s team came in first and he had many trophies that he displayed at the store. In 1986, a year after Dominic’s death, Bernice closed Gilbert Tailor and Tux and moved into an apartment at the Mercy Residence. She resided there until the facility closed, at which time she moved to Crete’s St. James Manor.

I interviewed Bernice and it was a pleasure to spend time with her. She wrapped up our interview by stating that she had a beautiful husband and a beautiful life with beautiful workers and the pleasure of beautiful customers and friends. I think it is safe to say that, if we reach 90 years of age, we’d love to look back and be able to say the same thing. But, I can tell you one thing right now: I had the pleasure of meeting a beautiful 91 year old when I met Bernice.

In Memoriam

Elva D. Remegi, nee Manzardo, 80; resident of Lansing, formerly of Roseland; wife of the late Robert M. Remegi — Eleanor H. Raehl, nee Stasel, 78; resident of Pullman, formerly of Roseland; wife of the late George Raehl Jr. — Donald M. Sannito, 71; resident of South Holland, formerly of Roseland; husband for 45 years of Barbara, nee Benetti — John “Richard” Gaspari, 78; resident of Midlothian, formerly of Roseland; husband for 52 years of Rina, nee Panozzo — Adelaide Minderman, nee Pass, 102; resident of Mount Greenwood, formerly of Roseland; wife of the late Robert Minderman — Alexander “Gene” Guidici, 88; resident of South Holland, formerly of Roseland; husband for 65 years of Marie, nee D’Onofrio — Lyle J. Spagnola; resident of Homewood, formerly of Roseland; son of the late Maria, nee Slaviero, and John Spagnola.

Contact me at CJ Martello, 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; cjfranoi@yahoo.com; leave message at 773-701-675.

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.