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Tailor Joe Calautti is Calling it Quits

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Legendary Tailor is calling it quits, closing his Harvard Square shop because he can't find a successor. The death of craftsmanship is nigh.


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CAMBRIDGE — The suit John Kerry wore to accept the Democratic presidential nomination, the one he donned to walk his daughter down the aisle, and the blazer he grabs before every flight as secretary of state all came from the same place: not Brooks Brothers or Brioni but a little tailor shop above a grocer in Harvard Square.

Drew Faust walked up those same steps to Rizzo Tailor when she became president of Harvard eight years ago, and Julia Child in the 1980s, and Robert F. Kennedy as an undergrad back in 1947. It was an old-world refuge even then, an artisan’s workshop crafting bespoke suits of subtle elegance, but also a neighborhood tailor dispensing alterations and advice.

First, there was Joe Rizzo, an Italian immigrant who set up shop initially in Boston, and then there was Joe Calautti, a Milanese-trained assistant who joined in 1964 and took over in ’73 — two men crouching beside Nobel laureates and neighborhood lawyers with their tape measures and pins, a century of continuous work.

That estimable line will come to an end Wednesday, when Calautti — now 75 and unable to find a successor — locks up for one last time upstairs near the intersection of Brattle and Church. And it is hard to tell who is more bereft, the shopkeeper or his longtime customers. One by one in recent weeks, they have played out the same scene beyond Rizzo’s frosted-glass door.

post #2 of 2
Joe Calautti will be part of the panel for the Q&A with director Vicki Vasilopoulos after the Boston premiere of the film MEN OF THE CLOTH -- at the Museum Of Fine Arts, Boston on Thursday December 10th at 7 PM. Advance tickets available.

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