A stitch in time

SHIRLEY PETFORD threw retirement out the window 26 years ago to open her own mending shop Clothing Alterations, and at 85 years old she’s still going strong. “I was bored, so a fortnight after retiring I opened a business,” Mrs Petford says.

Mrs Petford says there is still a demand for clothing alterations especially after the holiday season; “we are flat out”. She says Clothing Alterations has kept afloat thanks to loyal customers, some of whom have been there since the day it opened, although the last 12 months have been dire with a 15 per cent drop in trade. It’s a similar story across many Fremantle business.

• Shirley Petford. Photo by Koro Brown

• Shirley Petford. Photo by Koro Brown

Mrs Petford says the port city is “horrible” for business compared to the ”bustling” times of the America’s Cup defence in 1987.

“I originally went into business with an eccentric woman who only lasted 10 months because she was a New Zealander,” says Mrs Petford, who then took over the store and now has three staff working for her.

When asked about the average price to mend a garment, she displayed her feisty spirit: “Only a journalist would ask a question like that” before suggesting perhaps I was more suited to being a weather girl instead of a journalist.

Mrs Petford says she’s happy to have hit her 80s; “so I can say whatever I like”.

Before owning Clothing Alterations Mrs Petford was a nursing sister, owned an employment agency, was a public relations spokesperson for Home Building Society, and owned a fabric shop.

Her husband was the state manager of fire safety equipment shop Wormald, which meant the family of four often had to move and she’d have to give up one business to start another.

Mrs Petford grew up in Busselton and later lived on a cattle and grain farm, her father being the president of the local shire.

Mrs Petford is looking to sell up shop, and lists her plans for a second retirement as watching TV in bed, smoking cigarettes, not cleaning up, having lunch with friends and buying her favourite pastry every day.

by KORO BROWN

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