That’s Sew Local!The Whole Nine Yards & Carefree Clothing and Manufacturing
Most of us tend to think of manufacturing (which comes from Latin and means “making by hand”) as an industrial process, with machines and assembly lines. Valarie Midgley disagrees – as far as she’s concerned, it’s a community process, with people and more people – and a few sewing machines, too. At her twin businesses The Whole Nine Yards & Carefree Clothing and Manufacturing, she’s turning that community process into an artform.
When she made her first few pieces of “adaptive clothing” for her grandmother as a teenager, Valarie was only looking to make it easier for someone with reduced mobility to dress themselves, and for caregivers to help them. Fast forward 30 years to 2016, when The Whole Nine Yards had been doing custom clothing, repairs and alterations for about 12 years and retailing adaptive clothing manufactured elsewhere in Canada for the last four. When her major supplier announced their upcoming closure, Valarie decided to acquire her own supply chain: she bought the company’s most popular patterns and brought the manufacturing of adaptive clothing here to Thunder Bay.
Today Valarie operates both businesses side by side out of the space she rents on Fort William Road, offering tailoring services, custom clothing design and adaptive clothing made right here. Not only is she employing seven other people in the shop as a result of the new development, she’s beginning to hire sales reps, both here and in other markets. As sales grow across the country, she’ll require more staff to meet demand – bringing outside dollars into our local economy to support jobs.
In keeping with her first forays into adaptive clothing as a teen for her grandmother, Valarie feels a keen responsibility to make sure the clients and caregivers dressed by Carefree Clothing and Manufacturing are met with dignity, respect and modesty. She and her sales team make regular visits to Homes for the Aged, nursing homes and assisted living facilities to serve clients and even offer in-home service. This gives them first-hand contact with their customer base and provides ample opportunities for feedback and suggestions that lead to new and better products.
More than just an employer, Valarie is dedicated to being part of the community and supports local organizations with hundreds of hours of her time, her pocket money and donations from her businesses. She mentors young professionals, bakes for the Regional Food Distribution Association, Springs Up to Clean Up with EcoSuperior and volunteers her own and her staff’s paid time to repair items of clothing for local clothing charities. As a result she’s currently up for four Ontario business awards and has recently been named the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce’ 2017 Business Person of the Year.
The Whole Nine Yards & Carefree Clothing and Manufacturing are also the customers of other local businesses. Although she’s yet to find a local supplier of raw textiles, she deals with other TBay businesses for her office supplies, computers, website, printing and advertising, and makes a point of choosing TBay businesses for her own purchases, ploughing her business’ income right back into the local economy.
When you support TBay manufacturing businesses like The Whole Nine Yards & Carefree Clothing and Manufacturing, you support TBay jobs and help develop the potential for more. You support small-business owners like Valarie who tirelessly support our community and, through them, the sports teams, charities and not-for-profits that help make Thunder Bay better.
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