The famous subway tailor on Anna Salai

G. Karnan Rao gets uneasy talking about the changes Anna Salai, or Mount Road, has been witnessing since the Metro Rail work started in the city. A few landmark shops on the road opposite MLAs' Hostel are being razed and a few subways in other pockets of the city have disappeared.

“My children do not want to continue with the trade …but I wish to run the shop from the same place till my last breath,” says Mr. Rao, the second generation running P.M. Gopal Rao Gents Tailor. For over four decades now, passersby have been taking note of this tailoring shop because of its unique location — it sits on the superstructure above the subway at the Anna Salai-Wallajah Road signal. “It is in the heart of the city and has its own brand name,” he says with pride.

His father P.M. Gopal Rao, a Marathi settled in the city, started the business in 1958. He first opened a shop next to the Bombay Halwa House on Mount Road and later relocated to the subway. With permission from the civic body, the shop broke a portion of the wall facing the road and placed a glass enclosure. It dutifully continues to pay a nominal rent to the government.

An old signboard bearing the name of his father with the designation ‘woollen specialist' and a teak wood table used to cut clothes — these are some of the things that stand out in the shop. But Mr. Rao owes the brand name the shop has acquired over the decades to his father. “Before he opened the shop, he went to various hostels — Madras Medical College, Law College, Presidency College, to name a few — to solicit business,” recalls Mr. Rao. Prompt delivery, fitting and finish were hallmarks that helped the gents' tailor get many high-profile clients including politicians, advocates and bureaucrats.

“The wedding clothes of M.K. Stalin were stitched by my father, and we still have some of the second and third generation of old-time politicians coming to us,” he says proudly. One of his old customers recalls a queue outside the shop once upon a time, with clients waiting to get their measurements noted in the book.

Karnan Rao seems unfazed with the competition around and is happy running the 250 sq. ft. shop with five other employees. “There is no door number to my shop… but I have old clients, some of them just want a broken button stitched, and I can't say no,” he adds.

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