Uncommon Labor: Gloria Horn Sewing Studio
A milkman, a cobbler, a calligrapher, a compounding pharmacist, a seamstress: You might expect to find that these occupations have grown obsolete. These days, many people get their dairy—and even their medicines—from the grocery store, create their own invitations online, and buy new clothing and shoes when they become old or out of style. But that’s not always the case. In fact, many of these “old-timey” occupations are thriving, and you can patronize them right here in the heart of Mt. Lebanon.
When Gloria Horn opened her store, Gloria Horn Sewing Studio, in a Cedar Boulevard basement in 1983, she never could have imagined where her business would be today. Fast forward 39 years, and she has a bigger store at 300 Castle Shannon Boulevard, an app and a highly successful online business.
Horn learned how to sew while attending Mt. Lebanon High School, where she graduated in 1974. She practiced everything from basic dressmaking to tailored coats and suits. She credits her “unbelievable teachers” with influencing her decision to turn sewing into a career.
While Mt. Lebanon High School does not teach sewing to the extent it once did, people now have another avenue to learn: the internet.
“That was the issue,” said Horn. “How are we going to get young people in to teach them how to sew? They’re so busy they can’t take sewing class. But now they learn how to sew on YouTube. They get tips on Instagram. YouTube has really helped our business. You can learn everything about sewing on YouTube.”
After recognizing the influence YouTube had on sewing, Horn thought about teaching her own virtual classes. But it was a big risk, because she wasn’t quite sure how to get started. That risk turned into a reward, because now Horn has hundreds of viewers signing on to her app, Gloria Horn Sewing Studio, to learn different projects. Her busiest night, Thursday, usually welcomes 700 to 800 people from all over the country.
“On Tuesday we made a dress, on Monday we demonstrated these beautiful table runners. Yesterday we were making pillows,” Horn said.
As a result of her virtual classes, Horn’s online sales have also increased tremendously. She ships 100 to 200 packages a day—most of them kits to make her class projects.
“It’s very consistent,” Horn said. “The post office says that we are their biggest customer.”
Aside from technology, Horn says the biggest difference in sewing is people no longer sew for necessity, but rather enjoyment. People don’t need to make their own clothes. Instead, they practice embroidery, and make quilts and gifts.
“My customers love, love, love to make presents and give them to people. They get such satisfaction out of that,” Horn said.
Because of technology, Horn is confident her business will continue to succeed. Younger generations have become increasingly interested in the practice, thanks to YouTube. She even has a few younger girls who work in her store, and already has someone in mind to continue its operations.
“It’s wonderful, we love it. We never want it to end,” Horn said. “We want to keep growing and growing and growing.”
300 Castle Shannon Blvd.