Team managers, business owners and event organizers travel across the Berkshires to see Alfred Enchill and his son Auric of Elegant Stitches when they want custom embroidered and silkscreened t-shirts and apparel. Their business grew substantially since it started in 1990s. But, it was starting to level out and needed help to grow to the next step.
“This business has changed many times,” said Alfred. “Somewhere in 1994, my then wife was designing African clothes and we would go to trade fairs and such to sell them. Our Husqvarna sewing machine had the ability to do embroidery, so we would embroider names on bibs and stuff and take them to the shows to sell with the African clothes.”
“One day I said to my wife, ‘have you noticed that we sell more of the embroidery than we do of the African clothes?’,” he added. “So, I started looking around noticed that there wasn’t an embroidery shop in Pittsfield. I looked into it more and found out that people in Pittsfield who needed embroidery were ordering it from somewhere else. So, we started the embroidery business in our Pittsfield basement.”
The early days were hard. Alfred has a contract delivery business working for the post office as his main source of income.
“When I finished my post office route, I would do the embroidery business. I changed myself into a suit and tie and went door to door, mostly in Pittsfield’s industrial parks. I would give out cards, show them samples, and go to trade shows,” said Alfred.
Alfred believes that Berkshire businesses like to support local businesses and that helped Elegant Stitches to grow. They opened a shop at First and Fenn Streets near downtown. The store was destroyed a few years later in an arson fire.
“That was heartbreaking,” Alfred said. “But the community came out to help us. A guy even offered us a storefront on Tyler Street for free to use for six months.”
Now operating out of a building they purchased less than one-half mile from their original location on First Street, the company expanded to include screen printing and vinyl heat press printing in addition to embroidery for hats, sweatshirts, t-shirts, stockings, shorts, outerwear, towels, blankets, business apparel and more.
Yet, Alfred and Auric believed that the company needed to change again in order to grow. They believed that any potential growth was limited because customers had to come to the store to place an order. For example, a sports team member in a southern Berkshire town would need to travel to Pittsfield to customize their product.
“We had a website, but it was really outdated,” Auric said. “We needed something new that would give customers the ability to design products and place orders online.”
Elegant Stitches applied for and received a technical assistance grant from the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation (PERC) to create a new website.