Connie Croom grew up sewing. Learning from her mother, grandmother, and aunts, Croom’s passion for sewing followed her throughout her life.
“I did it in school, I took classes. I usually ended up being the teacher’s helper [instead of] working on my own projects because I was more advanced,” said Croom. “I didn’t start making my own projects [in class] until I got to high school.”
After high school, Croom’s sewing and alterations skills took a backseat to her military career. Upon her retirement from the military, Croom once again took up her needle and thread and began a master class with a highly regarded master tailor.
“I learned a lot! You think you know a lot until you get with someone who really knows something,” said Croom. “It was a good class.”
Once Croom received her certification in custom alterations, she began Connie’s Fig Leaf as a small operation out of her home, relying on people that she knew and word of mouth to keep the new business operational.
“There were months when it was just fantastic and I couldn't keep up, and other times I couldn't find anybody anywhere [who needed alterations],” said Croom.
Always wanting to own her own business, Croom was very excited about the opportunity to attend SpringGR and make her dream a reality – to take her home business to the next level.
“It’s all about marketing – you continually have to market, you have to reach out. So that’s the thing that I took away from the class, you constantly have to market yourself and keep the income coming in,” said Croom. “I know how it was at home, because I didn’t [market my business] at home, I just relied on people that I knew. But this is a whole different environment now. It’s a continual learning process.”
A few months after graduating from SpringGR, Croom was introduced to fellow graduate, Pat Gaines, owner of All Tied Up by Pat, who creates custom ties and bowties. Together, they worked with SpringGR and Rockford Construction to open a shared retail space in the Shops @ MoDiv, located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids – bringing Croom’s custom alterations expertise to the core of this growing city. Before their arrival, people would need to drive to the surrounding suburbs for alterations; now it's just a short walk from their doorsteps or place of work.
“I know from the people that have come in that they’re thrilled that we’re here,” said Croom. “So I know that the opportunity is here, and now I have to make sure that I take advantage of every opportunity.”
After celebrating the grand opening of the store front this past summer, Croom is working hard to accomplish her goal of establishing a continuous clientele.
“I want to have a continual clientele, and build relationships. I want to provide that excellent service. My goal is to make sure that it’s correct the first time going out the door,” said Croom. “I want people to be able to say, ‘She did what I wanted, and it fit better than I expected.’ My instructor always told us that we need to return it better than when it came in, so that has always been my goal.”
Croom is also looking ahead to the future, and her long-term aspirations for her business. She would love to open a training academy for students in between high school and college, particularly for those interested in clothing design or tailoring.
“One of the things I would love to do is to be able to train someone, because this is a dying art. To be able to train someone to know how to sew, and it doesn’t have to be for a business, but just for themselves. Any time you know how to do something for yourself it could always be a potential business,” said Croom.
Connie’s Fig Leaf Shop is located inside the Shops @ MoDiv, on the corner of Monroe Center and Division in downtown Grand Rapids.