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765 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Growing up in a tiny stucco house in Jalisco, Mexico, one of eight children of a construction laborer, Ricardo Torres hardly had the makings of a promising entrepreneur. He was forced to do manual labor at the age of 6 and didn't complete the equivalent of a 10th-grade education until he was 25. No matter. Torres, 50, always had two undeniable strengths - a warm personality and an enormous capacity for work - and he parlayed that into Ricardo's, a 19-year-old tailoring and menswear shop in Sunnyvale. By some accounts, he has become the most well-known and biggest tailor shop in Silicon Valley. Ricardo's garners $500, 000 a year in revenues and employs eight tailors at Hacienda Shopping Center on EI Camino Real. Most competitors, by contrast, are solo acts housed inside a dry-cleaning store. This isn't to say that the competition isn't stiff. About 40 percent of Ricardo's business comes from men's clothing sales, and that puts him up against Men's Warehouse and other aggressively priced chains while sales of men's suits continue to decline. There are two ways to beat the odds and succeed. At one extreme, Men's Warehouse, which has seven stores in Santa Clara County alone, sells good merchandise at below-retail prices and offers lifetime alternations and pressings for free. Torres makes the formula sound simple. "A good tailor understands a customer's needs and the particular way he likes things done, " he says. "In a way, it's like being a barber. Once you get comfortable with a person, you go back." Yet Torres understates the case. Simply consider the paucity of sizable tailoring shops in Silicon Valley or anyplace else. "There's a lot to be said for doing tailoring work quickly and at a decent price - and for getting it right the first time, " says Ira Kalish, a Los Angeles-based analyst at Management Horizons / Price Waterhouse, a retail management consulting firm. "I wish I knew about a place like Ricardo's in L.A." Doug Adkins, a manager at 3Com Corp. and self-described "clothes hound
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