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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Silvio DeCaro remembered as family man, ‘brilliant tailor’

Silvio DeCaro with his wife Vera at their custom tailoring business at South 13 S. Howard St. 
 (File/ / The Spokesman-Review)
Silvio DeCaro with his wife Vera at their custom tailoring business at South 13 S. Howard St. (File/ / The Spokesman-Review)

For Silvio DeCaro, tailoring was much more than measuring and sewing. It was an art.

“What set him apart was that he was technically a brilliant tailor and he always wanted to learn new things,” said his son, Gian DeCaro. “A lot of guys stop learning at a certain point in their life. He used to say when you’re green you grow and when you’re ripe you rot.”

DeCaro, the owner of Sil’s Tailors/Silvio DeCaro Collection from 1945 to 1995, one of the only full-service tailor shops in the Inland Northwest, died June 7. He was 84.

Born in Maione, Italy, DeCaro had been sewing since he was 8 years old. When he was 16 he boarded a steamer to New York to meet his father, who had immigrated to the United States. When he arrived in New York City he had only $20 in his pocket. He spent $2 on the train from New York to Spokane, where his father was working in lumber mills, and when he arrived in Spokane he gave the remaining $18 to his father.

“In those days you were sent to learn a trade by your parents,” DeCaro said. “Once he started doing it he noticed he had a knack for the art.”

DeCaro met his wife, Elvira, in 1940 at an American-Italian Club picnic. They married two years later.

He served in the Navy during World War II and sent money home to Elvira, who saved $5 a week. With those savings, the couple opened the tailoring business at 13 S. Howard St. in 1945.

“He didn’t come with much from Italy,” said his daughter, Rita Anderson, “and he built his business up from scratch.”

It wasn’t long before he built up a loyal clientele and earned the nickname “Il Maestro” for his custom-made suits. He was featured in GQ and Town & Country, which ranked him in the top five tailors of the west.

Because there weren’t many full service clothiers between Spokane and Minneapolis, DeCaro had a far-reaching demographic, catering to a veritable who’s who of area power brokers.

“The interesting thing about the store is that instead of just buying clothes it was the place to be and you never knew who you were going to run into there,” DeCaro said. “We used to say introductions were made in our store because of all the high-profile businessmen who would shop there. One would be coming to pick up a suit, another would be leaving, and they’d meet and we always wondered how many multimillion dollar deals happened in the store.”

His grandson, Jeff Valley, worked in the shop one summer sweeping the floors and washing the mirrors. He recalls the shop as a quiet little place, but mostly remembers his grandfather as a family man.

The entire family would meet every Sunday at the family home for dinner, and DeCaro would sit at the head of the table.

“He was happiest when he had his family around him at those Sunday dinners,” Valley said.

“Il Maestro” may have hung up his scissors in 1995, but his legacy lives on. After he retired, he still had private clients he dealt with in Spokane, and he would send the work to his son, who owns Gian DeCaro Sartoria in Seattle.

And every day at 4:45 he would call his son to ask how business was going.

“He was a hell of a salesman even up to his 83rd year,” DeCaro said.

Survivors include his wife; three daughters, Georgianna Valley, Silvia Rita Anderson and Joan Shanks; a son, Gian DeCaro; two sisters, Giuseppina Greco and Fiammetta Castino; 11 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren;

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